It all began in 1965, with just 100 shortcakes. Fifty-one years later, Christ Church Cathedral’s annual Strawberry Festival includes seven tons of strawberries and 19,000 shortcakes. It is the church’s signature community event, but it’s not just about sugar and shortcakes. It’s about service. Because all the proceeds that come in go right back out.
The Strawberry Festival started as “a little fundraiser.” The Cathedral Women thought it would be a fun, laid-back event where they could serve made-from-scratch shortcakes. The kind that are flaky and fluffy, a perfect complement to a scoop of sugared strawberries.
They held the event on a Thursday—when the J.C. Penney on Monument Circle was open late. Within two hours, the Cathedral Women sold out of shortcakes. Maybe we could do this again, they thought.
They didn’t know their “little fundraiser” would eventually bring thousands of individuals to the front steps of the “Little Church on the Circle.” They didn’t know more than 300 volunteers would be needed to bake shortcakes, unload cartons upon cartons of ice cream, and drop dollops of whipped cream onto piles of berries. They couldn’t have guessed that the 2015 Strawberry Festival would bring in more than $60,000, which was granted to local, national, and international organizations like Exodus Refugee Immigration, the Julian Center, and St. Andre School in Mithon, Haiti.
This year, at the 51st annual festival, Monument Circle brimmed with activity. Individuals of all ages, backgrounds, and orientations congregated on the steps of the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument, spoons in hand, strawberry juice dripping from their chins. There was banjo music. Sunshine. The methodic waving of hand fans Christ Church volunteers distributed. There was laughing, giving, serving, and surrendering to mid-day sugar rushes.
And to think, it all started with 100 shortcakes.