Billings’ annual Strawberry Festival returns, and with it comes the annual FAQ: ‘Where are the Strawberries?’

The 2024 Strawberry Festival is next Saturday, July 13th. This year’s festival has over 150 vendors and nearly 80 of those vendors will have strawberry products/menu items/offerings. In fact, the vendors with strawberry offerings are noted with a🍓next to their vendor number on the vendor list here. But still, our team is prepared to field the annual influx of “Where are the Strawberries?”.

When the Downtown Billings Association (DBA) started the Strawberry festival in the 1990s, it began as an early June event that kicked off the downtown Summer event season and consisted of less than 40 vendors. Despite its name, the Strawberry Festival is and has always been a vendor street fair bursting with commercial merchants, arts and craft vendors, and food vendors and not a farmers market. Over the decades, various DBA team have tried many different ways to incorporate the festival’s namesake into the event: For nearly twenty years the late Ziggy Ziegler, a founder of the Downtown Billings Association (DBA), wandered the festival in a large rubber strawberry costume and a group of chefs and cooks worked with Albertsons to craft a sixty-foot strawberry shortcake on-site to later sell by the slice as a fundraiser. The Strawberry man costume was retired from the festival when Ziegler himself retired in 2019 and the giant shortcake became an item of the past when the festival returned in July post COVID in 2021.

After 28 years of coordinating the early June festival, our hard working team and regular vendors grew tired of the inconsistent June weather literally raining or even snowing on our efforts and the day’s fun. When the festival returned in July 2021, after a one year COVID hiatus, we sought board approval to permanently relocate the festival to July.

The new early July date has offered more consistent weather, larger crowds, more vendors, and allowed the Strawberry Festival and HarvestFest to bookend the Yellowstone Valley Farmers Market Season. With the one real downside of the new date being that by early July, we’ve sort of missed the prime ‘Strawberry Season’ and haven’t had much luck in our efforts to bring in fresh pallets of strawberries to the Strawberry festival since. However, unlike huckleberry or sugar beets, strawberries are not a common Montana crop and having strawberries at the Strawberry Festival has proven itself a challenge for years prior to the new date.

And before you ask, “why not change the name if it’s not a festival loaded with strawberries?”: A proposal to change the name of the festival was presented to our boards, membership, and the festival vendors in 2021 and 2022 and the majority preferred we keep the name of this legacy event the same. And so…The Strawberry Festival is an Arts & Craft, Merchant, and Food Truck Festival where nearly 1/2 of the vendors (about 80 vendors in the 2024) in the festival have some sort of strawberry themed product or strawberry offering… You can find are strawberry scented hand crafted candles, strawberry themed hand sewn items, clothing, and even doll clothes. There’s pottery, jewelry, and more all with strawberries in mind. A full list of vendors including those with strawberry offerings will be made available at the purple info booth at Skypoint during the event itself.

  • Posted on: July 3, 2024
  • Categories: Events