Charlize Lucarelli, right, and her brother Jacob, of Mattituck, enjoy strawberries at...

Charlize Lucarelli, right, and her brother Jacob, of Mattituck, enjoy strawberries at the Mattituck Strawberry Festival in June 2023.  Credit: James Carbone

Competitive eater Geoff Esper consumed 21 pounds of strawberry shortcake during the Mattituck Lions Club Strawberry Festival last year. His feat — a 2 3/4-pound increase from his 2022 victory — crowned him the winner.

“I love that strawberry shortcake. It’s delicious and you don’t get flavor fatigue,” says Esper, 48, of Oxford, Massachusetts, who has been a competitive eater since 2015.

When the annual festival returns June 12-16, not only does Esper have his sights on winning again, but he’s gunning to beat the overall record of 22 pounds set by Carmen Cincotti, of Newark, New Jersey, in 2018.

“Strawberry Shortcake is a capacity contest. It’s a test to see who has the biggest tank,” says Esper, who prepares by drinking lots of water and electrolytes the week before. “It’s like sprinting hard. You have to go a full 100% during that  eight minutes.”

The contest is just one part of this old-fashioned event that has become a summer staple on the North Fork for 69 years. “The Strawberry Festival has a small town country fair atmosphere,” says sponsorship chair Jason Wahl. Here's what to look out for. 

STRAWBERRY EVERYTHING

Local volunteers help prepare the strawberries on Hulling Night, which...

Local volunteers help prepare the strawberries on Hulling Night, which takes place on the opening day of the Strawberry Festival in Mattituck.

Strawberry fans will be in heaven as six different strawberry treats will be sold under a big tent in the center of the field. Take your pick from the menu that includes strawberry shortcake ($10), strawberry daiquiris ($5), strawberry cupcakes ($5), strawberry cookies ($5), strawberry pies ($20) and chocolate-dipped strawberries (four for $10, 12 for $25).

More than seven pallets  of fresh strawberries, each up to 7 feet tall, get prepared on Hulling Night on June 12  when the community comes together to unite over the berry.

“The job involves taking the greenery off and then punching a straw through the center in order to remove the core and stem,” says festival chairman Adam West. “The berries are gathered in buckets to get washed then put into barrels where sugar is then added.”

CROWNING THE STRAWBERRY QUEEN

Alexandra Piscatelli, of Mattituck-Cutchogue High School, was crowned the 2023...

Alexandra Piscatelli, of Mattituck-Cutchogue High School, was crowned the 2023 Strawberry Queen at the Strawberry Festival in Mattituck.

A new Strawberry Queen gets crowned on June 15  at 4 p.m. Contestants must be a sophomore or junior student at a local high school within Southold Township.

“We look for a well-rounded young person who is very involved in community service because the Lions Club is based on serving others,” says Wahl.

A preliminary judging process happens prior to bringing the contest down to five  finalists, who have been interviewed by Lions Club members at a previous engagement. The winner gets announced at the festival.

STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE EATING CONTEST

Geoff Esper, 48, of Oxford, Mass., was declared the Strawberry...

Geoff Esper, 48, of Oxford, Mass., was declared the Strawberry Shortcake Eating Champion at last year's Strawberry Festival in Mattituck.

The Strawberry Shortcake Eating Contest, which is overseen and sanctioned by Major League Eating, will take place on June 15  at 5 p.m. and see contestants strive to eat as much shortcake as they can in eight  minutes.

“It’s a messy but colorful scene,” says Wahl. “When the strawberries mix with the cream, everything turns to pink mush.”

LIVE ENTERTAINMENT

Stephanie Falisi, of Riverhead, helps make strawberry shortcacke during the...

Stephanie Falisi, of Riverhead, helps make strawberry shortcacke during the Mattituck Lion's Strawberry Festival in June 2022. Credit: Newsday/Steve Pfost

This year’s entertainment roster is stacked with a bigger stage and a professional sound company to pump the music throughout the festival. A “North Fork’s Got Talent” show June 12 will showcase six local acts ages 15 and younger as well as six local acts ages 16 and older, starting at 6:30 p.m.

“The style of entertainment is very open. It can be singing, dancing, comedy or performances from bands. Each year it gets more diverse,” says talent show committee chair Mike O’Donnell. “We’ve had everything from an acoustic ukulele club to a 6-year-old dancer.”

The contest will be preceded by all-stars from past years at 5 p.m. and the night will close with a jam session at 8:30 p.m.

On June 13, Billy Joel tribute David Clark’s All About Joel takes the stage at 7 p.m. and cover band Fever headlines on June 14  at 7:30 p.m. Check out the reggae sounds of Aqua Cherry on June 15  at 12:30 p.m. followed by the funky fun of That 70’s Band at 7:30 p.m. The day begins June 16  with country pop band Points East at 11 a.m. and ends with REEB (Real East End Brass) at 1:30 p.m.

CARNIVAL, FOOD COURT AND FIREWORKS 

The Wave Swinger will be featured in the carnival area...

The Wave Swinger will be featured in the carnival area of this year's Strawberry Festival in Mattituck. 

What’s a festival without some rides and games? A carnival area will be set up on the north side of the property under the direction of Reithoffer Shows.

This year’s selection of more than 20 rides includes new additions like the Hulk and the Sky Flyer along with returning classics like the Zipper, Tilt-A-Whirl, Century Wheel and the Grand Carousel, plus an array of midway games.

A food court, located on the south side of the property, will feature festive fare including corn dogs, sausage and pepper heroes, burgers and fries, popcorn, funnel cakes as well as fresh barbecue and Greek food.

Don’t miss the vendor's market, located right past the admission tent, where more than 30 local artisans sell everything from homemade jewelry to clothing to crafts and more.

Look up in the sky for a show by American Fireworks Display on June 13  at 9:30 p.m. plus June 14 and June 15  at 10:30 p.m.

Take a chance and win a small fortune by participating in the Big Bucks Raffle. Tickets are $100 each with a grand prize of $10,000. The drawing takes place on the stage at the end of the festival on June 16  at 4:30 p.m.

 “This is our one and only fundraiser of the year. When you spend your money here, it’s all going to good causes,” Wahl says.

The Lions Club donated $50,000 last year to the Guide Dog Foundation in Smithtown, which they will be donating to again this year. Other beneficiaries include St. Jude’s Children Resource Hospital, various veteran homes, Canine Companions, local food pantries and others.

MATTITUCK LIONS CLUB’S 69th ANNUAL STRAWBERRY FESTIVAL

WHEN | WHERE 5 to 10 p.m. June 12-13; 5 to 11 p.m. June 14, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. June 15 and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. June 16; 1105 North Rd. (Rte. 48), Mattituck

COST Free June 12; $10 per person June 13-16 (fathers get in free on Father’s Day with one paid child). All kids younger than 5 get in free each day. Rides and games are not included in the admission price. Pay-one-price ride bracelets are $30-$35.

MORE INFO mattituckstrawberryfestival.com

SUBSCRIBE

Unlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months

ACT NOWSALE ENDS SOON | CANCEL ANYTIME