Berry Time 

More than just a fun day out,​ the Habitat Strawberry Festival ​enhances our entire community. 

“Our purpose is to raise awareness and enough funds to build a home for a family in need,” explains Elizabeth Chryst, chair of the board, and Joanne Black, development director for Habitat. “Marion County is the most giving and sharing community​—​always willing to lend a hand to work together to better the community.”

Since its inception, Habitat for Humanity of Marion County has rehabilitated, built or medically improved over 320 homes. Any Marion County resident can become a homeowner if they are in need of decent housing and can complete 350 ‘sweat equity’ work hours on their home or other Habitat homes, as well as community work. The process typically takes about a year, but thereafter they become a mortgage holder of a Habitat home.

The fifth annual festival takes place on March 3 at the McPherson Complex located at 801 SE 25th Avenue in Ocala. Admission and parking are free, and the festival runs from 8am to 6pm, with the annual ​Strawberry Jam 5K starting at 8am.

“There is a scrumptious pancake breakfast from 7:30am until all pancakes are gone, offered by the Kiwanis Club,” notes Chryst and Black “Of course, there will be strawberry toppings for your pancakes, and all proceeds from the breakfast benefit the Habitat Strawberry House.”

There will also be an array of good eats available throughout the day, including hamburgers; hot dogs; sausage, pepper and onion sandwiches; funnel cakes; ice cream; Italian ice; frozen lemonade; cheesecake; white and dark chocolate-dipped berries and homemade shortcake.

This year will feature bigger and better attractions, including live entertainment, an expanded auto show and over 150 distinct vendors. One of the festival’s most-loved attractions is thanks to our four-legged friends.

“Each year, we host a pet contest and showcase an adoption facility that parades their animals on stage before the contest,” agree Chryst and Black. “This year we are asking people to either pay a $5 fee or bring $5 worth of pet items to the registration booth. This allows your pet to compete in all categories, including Cutest, Best Trick, Owner/Pet Look Alike, Best Smooch, Best Costume and Best of Show.”

The ladies described their favorite part of the festival as, “Watching multi-generational families eating strawberry delights, as their children romp through the kid’s zone… while moms shop craft vendors and dads enjoy vintage cars on display. Something for the whole family!”

Want more info? > Advanced sales of fresh strawberries are available online at habitatocala.org. > For festival details, visit habitatstrawberryfamilyfest.com.

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