I'm Lindsay Ferrier, a Nashville writer with a passion for family travel, exploring Tennessee, and raising kids without losing my mind in the process. This is where I share my discoveries, along with occasional deep thoughts, pop culture tangents and a sprinkling of snark. Want to get in touch? Use the CONTACT form at the top of the page.
May 10, 2015
This summer, I’ve resolved to make a real effort to get out and explore Middle Tennessee with my kids. I do pretty well with this when my husband is around, but I’ve never felt all that comfortable straying too far alone with small children.
Now, though, the kids are getting older. The magnetic pull of video games, junk food, iPads, Netflix and 3DS’s is stronger than ever, our summer camp budget is… well… non-existent, and I can’t bear the thought of a summer spent indoors, combating the pull of inertia. The only solution is to get out of the house as much as possible. And that’s exactly what we’re going to do.
I decided to start things off yesterday by taking my son and daughter to the Portland Strawberry Festival. Just an hour north of Nashville, Portland is known for its fertile soil and more specifically, for its strawberries. I knew the town had an annual Strawberry Festival, and this year seemed like a great time to check it out– because this year, a group of die-hard Star Wars fans known as the 501st Legion would be there, acting as grand marshals of the event.
Star Wars and strawberries? How could we go wrong?
We got a late start since Bruiser had a soccer game at 11:30 Saturday morning, but after a very boring hour-long drive up I-65, we arrived in Portland. We easily found a parking spot in a field just beside the downtown area and joined the motley throng of festival-goers. I’ve lived in the south my entire life and have been to a lot of festivals in my time- What can I say about the Portland Strawberry Festival?
It was… festival-ish.
There were tents set up with merchants hawking overpriced plastic toys, 3-D mascara, spiders made of beads, and Amish baked goods. There were food trucks with standard festival food- corndogs and tacos, slushies and ice cream sandwiches, funnel cake and… more funnel cake. There was a dunking booth where you could pay to dunk football players from the local high school team. There was a kids section, where a five dollar wristband gained little ones access to about ten different bounce houses. That area was packed, and my kids wisely decided to stay away. There was a face painter and a balloon artist.
There was a small stage and live music, where a man who looked like a middle-aged insurance agent was belting out Elvis tunes before tens of people. There was a lot to look at, but two things were notably missing:
Star Wars characters. And strawberries.
I was disappointed- but since I had let the kids choose their lunches from the food trucks, they were having a ball. After much searching (and eating), we finally located the “Legion,” which consisted of five or six men and women in costume beneath a tent, posing for awkward photos.
Princess Leia was there, too, at another booth- but you had to pay $5.00 to get a picture with her.
This did not happen.
After an hour of exploring the various tents, we were all pretty much ready to depart- but first, I had to make sure I wasn’t missing what was ostensibly the crux of the entire event.
“Excuse me,” I asked a nice looking man standing beneath a tent that was advertising a local church. “Is there a place here to buy strawberries? Actual strawberries?”
“Well, now, I don’t know about that,” he said after a pause. “You might check down the street thataways,” he pointed off to his right. “I think Jebby Lou might’ve been selling ’em off his truck earlier today.” I thanked him and we walked down the street a few blocks, but Jebby Lou was long gone. I did, however, spot the official ‘Event Coordinators’ tent. If anybody would know where the strawberries were, it would be the two ladies sitting beneath it.
“Hello,” I said when I got to their table. “I was wondering where the actual strawberries are.” They both looked blankly back at me.
“Huh?” one of them said finally.
“I wondered if I could buy strawberries at the Strawberry Festival,” I said. They still looked confused. “Because it’s a… strawberry festival,” I continued. “So I thought it might be nice to take home some Portland strawberries.”
One of the women laughed. “There’s no strawberries for sale here that I know of,” she said.
“Me neither,” the other woman agreed.
“Okay then!” I said. “Thanks anyway!”
On our way out, we took a couple of pictures to prove we’d been there…
(I am just now noticing that FREE PAIN RELIEF SAMPLE tent behind the kids. How on earth did I miss out on my FREE PAIN RELIEF SAMPLE?!) We also bought a bag of kettle corn for the road. As we got in the car, I tried to put a positive spin on the day. “That wasn’t quite what I expected,” I told the kids, “but I guess that’s what happens when you go on adventures. Some are great… and some are not so great.”
“Oh, but I thought this was wonderful,” my daughter said. “I mean, at first when I found out what we were doing, I thought, ‘Oh no. Another boring festival!’ But it ended up being fun! The food was really good and we got balloon animals and this kettle corn is fantastic!”
“Did you have fun too, Bruiser?” I asked my son.
“Yah,” he said, his mouth full of popcorn. “It was GREAT.”
I smiled to myself as we got on the road. Maybe I was looking at this strawberry festival all wrong. Sure, there were no actual strawberries and the so-called ‘Legion’ of Star Wars characters probably should have been advertised as a ‘Cluster’… but on the upside, the port-a-potties were quite roomy. And I saw some interesting tattoos. And that insurance salesman really did sound a lot like Elvis. So it wasn’t a total bust after all… but it sure was going to be a long drive home. I followed the directions on my GPS, which had us going back to Nashville a different way from the way we’d come. Up ahead, I could see dozens of cars pulled off on the sides of the road. Beside the road was a field, and in it were men, women and all children of all ages… PICKING STRAWBERRIES.
We pulled off and got to picking.
It was late in the day and the field was pretty much picked over, but we found enough to fill our carton.
We arrived home an hour later, tired and happy and stained with strawberry juice.
Bottom line? I probably won’t go to Portland again for its Strawberry Festival (unless I am crowned its Strawberry Queen and in that case, IAMSOTHERE)- but I’d go back in a heartbeat for the berries. We got our strawberries from Crafton Farm (Address:1036 Hwy 52 W, Portland. Phone: (615) 969-6264 Evening Phone: (615) 325-6406) They say they expect to have strawberries for two more weekends, but it’s always a good idea to call before you come, just to make sure.
You can find a listing of more strawberry patches in the Portland area here.