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  • Writer's pictureMason Edwards!

Scootin’ to a 'Berry Good Time: The 76th Annual Strawberry Parade

Updated: Dec 23, 2023

By Mason Edwards, Contributing Reporter to The Herald-News

All ages—from toddlers to teens—rushed to the street from the sidewalk, hoping to score candy during Dayton’s 76th Annual Strawberry Parade. Hundreds of kids leapt from their seats as over 80 marching and cruising organizations launched candy from floats and car windows on Saturday, May 15.

Along Main Street, proud locals cheered on their government representatives, waving kin and municipal services. Dressed to suite the strawberry theme, well-decorated floats and shiny vehicles carried smiling faces from one end of downtown to the other. Several commercial entities—especially real estate firms—also cruised down the street. Easy Riders captured applause nearly as loud as their bikes, given that they honked for space before revving their engines and burning rubber down the street.

Locals clear their schedules or request off work for the Strawberry Festival’s main event: the parade. It serves as Dayton’s largest and most anticipated event, as the community publicly celebrates its heritage and members. Remarkably, despite the abundance of people, many families share their closest moments during the parade. Alberta Montgomery practically hosts family reunions during the time.

“I can’t remember ever missing one, except once, in 60 years,” Montgomery said. “We have sat through it, rain or shine.”

Her family, consisting of over 20 members across four generations, begins setting up chairs as early as 7:30 a.m. By sitting in the same place every year, Montgomery’s kin know where to find her, and extended family often stop by on their way to the parade’s festivities. According to her family, she gets more excited about the Strawberry Festival Parade than Christmas.

Montgomery’s granddaughter, Ealyn Riggs, 8, marched with a group of cheerleaders—a pride hundreds of other parents and grandparents also felt as their family members marched. One grandparent, Darleen Faucette of South Carolina, couldn’t help but smile as she talked about her grandkids.

“I’m getting to see four of my grandchildren in the parade today,” Faucette said. “I used to live here years ago; this is the first time I’ve been back in 15 years.”

Faucette and her grandson, Liam Rucker, 11, slurped ice cream from atop a concrete barrier.

Despite the chance of rain and taxing early summer humidity, they both shared no complaints.

“I think it’s cool, it’s exciting,” her grandson, Liam Rucker, approved. “There’s more people every year.”

Others jump at the chance to impress a large audience and embrace Dayton’s unique history. Spotted not far from the courthouse, Dianna Grove’s red and white dress complimented her strawberry face paint.

“I’m not from here, but I wish I was. Dayton is the most special city in the mid-south,” Dianna Grove said. “I love all of it.”

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