Each year, hulling night is sponsored by the Lions Club community service organization and attracts at least 1,000 friends and neighbors to the Route 48 Mattituck fairgrounds on the eve of the three-day strawberry festival. This year’s event will take place on Thursday, June 15, where volunteers will don aprons and vinyl gloves under a huge white tent to remove leaves and cores until no strawberry is unturned.

“The hulling itself is a remarkable story,” says Philip Centonze, who has been a Mattituck Lion for 30 years. “Can you tell me another event on Long Island where over a thousand people who are not affiliated with the Lions Club give up their time anonymously to help a charity fundraiser and then come back the next few days and support this event by buying the strawberry goodies they themselves help prepare?”

A bonding experience

Hulling night is a time for fellowship, family bonding and an opportunity to create good memories, says Centonze, who lives in Riverhead and practices dentistry in Mattituck. The festival is the unofficial kickoff to the tourist season on the East End.

When Hulling Night began 62 years ago, the strawberry festival was a one-day, eight-hour event. At the time, the Mattituck Lions and their families would handle all the hulling. Now that the festival has grown significantly, so too have the number of volunteers and the volume of strawberries needed.

Centonze, who has been hulling for more than 30 years, says the activity is the best part of the annual fair.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

“To see people laugh and maybe sneak a berry in their mouth and chat with sometimes total strangers, makes it all worthwhile,” he says.

Centonze typically works in post-hulling strawberry preparation at one of the berry washing stations. After the hulling is complete, each berry is washed and stored in a refrigerator until it is mashed and prepared for the festival’s signature shortcake topping and nonalcoholic daiquiri smoothies.

The festival will have three fireworks shows including a small light show at 9:15 on hulling night. Throughout the weekend, there will be food, games, rides and other amusements.