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Time's ripe for Mattituck strawberry fest

The strawberry shortcake is one of the Mattituck

The strawberry shortcake is one of the Mattituck Strawberry Festival's most popular offerings. Credit: Mattituck Lion's Club

For once, this weekend's Mattituck Strawberry Festival is perfect timing.

"We really lucked out," said Joseph Gergela III, executive director of the Long Island Farm Bureau.

He wasn't talking about the date -- the festival always starts on the third Friday in June -- but the weather, and the local crop of berries.

"This is the perfect week to have it," Gergela added. "The berries are nice and ripe."

But the crop only lasts for a month or so and is notoriously fragile. Getting enough strawberries for the big festival -- which is hosted by the Mattituck Lions Club and is the largest fundraiser on the North Fork -- is always difficult.

Over the years, festival organizers have had to truck berries in from New Jersey or Connecticut, depending on the weather, which is always a potential problem for strawberry growers. Strawberry plants don't die off, but the flowers that develop into berries can be lost to a late frost, and too much fog and rainy weather can result in mold killing off an entire harvest in just a few days. But Gergela noted that all the berries he has gotten at local farm stands have been perfect, and there have been few complaints about significant loss of crops.

Tomorrow night, hundreds of volunteers will again gather at the festival grounds to hull the thousands of strawberries that will be used Friday, Saturday and Sunday to make strawberry shortcake, strawberry daiquiris and chocolate-dipped strawberries.

Admission to the 58th annual Strawberry Festival is $2 on Friday and $5 on Saturday and Sunday; unlimited ride bracelets are $25.

More details are available at the festival website -- mattituckstrawberryfestival.org.

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