Final fare for founder

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This year’s Waimate Strawberry Fare is the last one for the woman who founded it.

Jackie Butler, a co-owner of Butler’s Berry Farm, will no longer be involved with the annual event after its 32nd appearance tomorrow.

Mrs Butler chaired the Waimate Art Group and had been seeking a location for an outdoor exhibition. She suggested having a Strawberry Fare at the berry farm, on State Highway 1 at Hook, which would also celebrate the centenary of strawberries being planted in the district.

The event was held at the Butlers’ roadside fruit stall for a few years, then moved into Waimate’s Seddon Square in 1989. It has since spread to fill both the square and neighbouring Boland Park.

Getting the fruit ready in time for the Strawberry Fare is a big mission at the berry farm. Mrs Butler said they were fortunate not to be affected by hail that ripped across the region last month.

A lack of sunshine during the wet spring caused some concern – sunshine was needed to develop the strawberries’ sweetness and colour. However, they were ripening nicely this month and proving juicy.

Strawberry Fare organising committee chairwoman Joy McIvor said there had been so much rain recently that it simply had to be fine tomorrow.

There are 275 stalls taking part, with more on a waiting list.

“Most sold out by July,” Mrs McIvor said. “It’s one of the major events on the South Island calendar – it has been for a number of years.”

Energy as its major sponsor, the event “pays for itself”. The biggest cost was entertainment. Mrs McIvor has kept costs down by approaching former Waimate singer David LaPlanche, who has been performing in Sydney.

“He still sees Waimate as home.”

Also on the playbill are the Freedom Fighters, Sisters in Song, Eden Guyton, Isaac Williams, Rebekah Clarke, the Waimate Highland Pipe Band and Silly Billy the Clown. Father Christmas will arrive at 11am.

A crowd of up to 14,000 was expected, allowing stallholders to take $800 to $1000 during the day, Mrs McIvor said. Schools also earned funds with Waimate Main School opening its grounds for car parking and Waimate Centennial School hired for the cleanup.

Waimate District Council acting chief executive Carolyn Johns said the council was “thrilled” the committee still ran the event every year. It produced “huge gains” for accommodation and food providers and opportunities for local groups to raise funds or showcase their activities.