Media and Communications Office
Set against a picturesque backdrop of gumtrees and the distant, hazy outline of the Dandenong Ranges, St Anne’s and St Gerard’s Parish in Park Orchards and Warrandyte welcomed thousands of eager visitors through its gates to celebrate the 35th annual Strawberry Fair on Sunday 3 March 2018.
‘Strawberry Fair’, a name that has become synonymous with the region, is often marked as a key date in local diaries and is the parish’s flagship fundraiser. This year was no different, as children and adults alike hurried towards the sound of carnival rides, sizzling barbeques, market stalls and live music performances.
The event, originally founded to alleviate some of the parish’s debt, today serves as a key role for the Park Orchards and Warrandyte townships with both St Anne’s Primary School and the parish evenly sharing the proceeds.
Having spent seven years as the Parish Priest, Fr Shibu Joseph—or simply Fr Joe—has become an integral part of the planning process.
He said the fair is an ideal opportunity to bring parishioners and the wider community together to reconnect, reaffirm relationships and continue to foster a strong sense of community spirit.
For the 2018 Strawberry Fair, Fr Joe launched the day with an opening prayer and initiated a quiet, spiritual and reflective space for attendees to escape the lively atmosphere.
‘This year we’ve opened the chapel for everyone. If anyone wants to spend some time in reflection and meditation, there is a chapel here that will be open throughout the day for those who want to spend some time in reflection,’ said Fr Joe.
In keeping with its name, the Strawberry Fair was inundated by images of the red fruit, with market stalls selling an abundance of strawberry jams, lollies and cakes.
Finance Committee Chairperson, Kevin Stevenson, revealed that the region had once been home to several strawberry farms.
Yet, despite the area’s love for strawberries, Kevin jokingly admitted that the fair has always been held outside of the strawberry growing season, leading to desperate searches for the succulent produce in the lead-up each year.