“The Strawberry Capital of the World”
NC STRAWBERRY FESTIVAL
MAY 2nd - MAY 6th
North Carolina's Oldest Running Agricultural Festival
Hosted the First Weekend in May in Chadbourn
The Chadbourn Strawberry Story
In the early 1900’s, Chadbourn was nicknamed “The Sunny South Colony”. The main crop in Chadbourn was Strawberries. Although there are plenty of strawberries around during the annual festival, there are not nearly as many (hundreds of train loads) as there were back then. Chadbourn was dubbed “The Strawberry Capitol of the World’. The Strawberry Festival has been the largest agricultural festival in the state for many years now.
Chadbourn is the boyhood home of Broadway and Film star, Ben Vereen. He still has family who reside in Chadbourn. Chadbourn’s current population is approximately 2000, with half living in the city limits and half living outside the city limits.
Chadbourn’s nickname is “Chadbourn Beach”. (The closest beach is actually 45 miles away).
Each year, The NC Strawberry Festival draws about 10,000 participants from all over the country.
STRAWBERRY CULTURE AND THE STRAWBERRY FESTIVAL
Strawberry culture began in Chadbourn in 1895 when Joseph Addison Brown, merchant farmer, and North Carolina State Senator, bought and/or developed thousands of acres of timber lands of the Chadbourn area for productive farm lands. With the Wilson Publishing Company of Chicago, Illinois, a colony was formed named THE SUNNY SOUTH COLONY. Thus the advertisment for this desirable climate and fertile soil brought an estimated 160 families to the Sunny South Colony after 1895. Some of the colonist were successful and many of the local farmers began the cultivation of strawberries.
The first planting of strawberries failed in 1895, but the next year, six and three quarter acres of berries were planted and J.A. Brown sold berries for a value of $5,562. The growth of the industry continued and in 1907, 347,000 thirty-two quart crates were shipped and Chadbourn became the Klondyke Strawberry Capitol of the World. In 1907, the largest one day shipment of strawberries was made. One hundred eighty railroad box carloads of strawberries, all of which had been harvested between sunrise and sunset, requiring 15,000 workers, was moved by rail from Chadbourn to points all over the country.
The continued success of the industry eventually became a reason for entertainment. In order to commemorate the thirthieth anniversary of the strawberry industry, the first Strawberry Festival was inauguarated on May 26, 1926. There were many exhibits and activities, including a parade and dance.
The parade and dance have endured over the years and are annual events. Civic clubs continued to sponsor many of the events during the festival. Big Time Bands were brought to town for the annual dance. Tommy Dorsey, Guy Lombardo and many others were remembered by those who like to remember the “good ole days” with us. One resident remembers the night the dance floor overflowed and one thousand spectators watched and listened to the music. Another resident remembers when there were dances held every night and the week long celebration ended with the big dance featuring the nationally famous band.
The Chadbourn Merchants Association sponsored the Strawberry Festival for several years. In 1970, the Strawberry Festival Association was formed. It is the oldest continuing agricultural festival in North Carolina. By charter, registered with the North Carolina Secretary of State, the Chadbourn Strawberry Festival officially became the North Carolina Strawberry Festival at Chadbourn, N.C. on January 17, 1985.
The festival continues annually with the parade always on the 1st weekend in May. It has grown to a parade of admirable proportions for a small rural town. Much has been added over the years such as beauty contest, cooking contest, a strawberry quality contest, art exhibits, strawberry shortcake. There are countless food and craft vendors, car show and a free variety entertainment show has been added. To add more celebration of honoring the strawberry farmers, merchants and workers of Chadbourn and Columbus County, STRAWBERRY ENCOUNTERS takes place the Friday night before parade day. It is a evening of “Strawberry Memories” at which there is much socializing, entertainment and food.