WALLACE, NC (WECT) - Like many of the other agricultural crops this spring, the strawberry arrived earlier than normal. Fortunately, there are still plenty of the sweet berries to be found for this weekend's Carolina Strawberry Festival, a festival that is making a comeback in the town of Wallace.
North Carolina is the fourth largest producers of strawberries in the nation. In the 1930s, the area around Wallace became known as the world's largest strawberry exchange. The area celebrated with a festival, complete with queens, parades, and parties.
"The soil here was perfect for strawberries, and so the old story goes, we grew and grew and grew into the world's largest strawberry market," said Wallace merchant Harriet Farrior.
Perhaps the biggest festival event took place in 1937 when Eleanor Roosevelt came to Wallace. The mother of Doctor Jack Robinson was responsible to getting the First Lady to Duplin County.
"I think a lot of people said that will never happen, you will never get Mrs. Roosevelt to come to Wallace, but they were wrong," said Robinson, whose mother invited the First Lady to the Festival. "She sent her some strawberries and some strawberry jam the year before, but it took some time before Roosevelt agreed to come."
World War Two put a stop to the Strawberry Festival for many years, and after the war ended, the market and the festival started to go away.
But last year, after an absence of 50 years, a group of volunteers decided to start the Festival up again and it was a huge success.
This weekend, the second annual Carolina Strawberry Festival will take place.
"We're growing the Festival every year," said Festival Chairman Matt Livingston, who is also the Town Manager of Wallace. "We're looking forward people coming out and having a good time, that's what it is all about, enjoying themselves."
There are plenty of people who remember the days when sales of strawberries brought big farm income to residents, and this is their way of saying thank you to growers of the past and to those who still grow the state's official red berry.
And no matter what part of the state they are grown, just about all of us still enjoy going out and picking and eating fresh North Carolina strawberries.
If you would like more information about the second annual festival, go to their website, www.carolinastrawberryfestival.com.