The largest communal strawberry hulling effort in the Northeast, and perhaps the world, will take place in Mattituck this June as part of the 51st Annual Strawberry Festival and Country Fair. On June 16, the evening before the three-day event begins, hundreds of volunteers gather under a big tent to remove the stems from 800 to 1000 flats of strawberries. With one dozen pints per flat, and 15 or so strawberries per pint, that’s nearly 200,000 berries. “There are cub scouts next to seniors,” said Dr. Jim Hinsch, former president of the Mattituck Lions Club, which sponsors the event. “For a lot of people in the community, that is the strawberry festival.” The festival was launched in 1955, after several members of the Mattituck Lions Club attended a strawberry festival in Florida.
“Strawberries were a crop on the North Fork that was very popular for a long time,” said Dr. Hinsch, who has attended the last 16 festivals, was former president of the Festival, and currently coordinates the event’s vendors.
(The closest thing to a strawberry festival on the South Fork is the annual strawberry tasting at the Green Thumb in Watermill in mid- June.) Today, the festival still depends on local strawberry growers, and the proceeds support more than 20 charitable groups. Since 1956, a Strawberry Festival Queen has been crowned, and other traditions have followed, including the craft show, carnival, strawberry daiquiri’s, chocolate covered strawberries, and coloring contest. But, as Dr. Hinsch admitted, “It’s really about the shortcake.” (For information, 298.5333 and mattitucklionsclub.org.)