WAYNE — “Go berry! Go berry!” a group of young boys chanted from the dock as Ella Steck, 14, paddled her strawberry-themed “boat” made of a discarded treadmill box and duct tape to victory in the adult division.

The cardboard boat race is just one of the events highlighting the Wayne Strawberry Festival on Saturday.

Earlier, in the much-more-crowded children’s race, Ella Steck’s 12-year-old cousin, Hazel Steck, grew frustrated at the slowness of the cardboard boat she paddled with 8-year-old Molly Fyler. As she watched a competitor on a paddleboard-style boat pull away from them, she decided to drop her cardboard paddle and jump overboard, swimming behind the makeshift vessel and pushing it along at a much faster pace. The spontaneous propulsion allowed them to pass the paddleboard-style craft and secure a second-place finish.

“I dove into the water and starting pushing, I wanted to beat that paddleboard kid,” Hazel Steck said of her overboard style.

While other competitors also swam with their crafts, it did not always appear to have been intentional. Some of the cardboard crafts took on water and, by the finish, were soggy, partially underwater and falling apart, which most competitors seemed to take in stride on the hot afternoon.

The festival started a few years ago, co-planner Tammy Birtwell said, as something fun to do in the summer to complement the small town’s popular annual winter holiday stroll.


In addition to helping plan the festival, Birtwell, of Birtwell Farm Goods, also had some baking to do leading up to the event. She put together 100 mini strawberry pies for her mother-in-law, Glenice Green, to sell in the festival’s farmer’s market area. By just past noon there were only 18 pies left.

Glenice Green consolidates onto a sheet pan the last 16 of 100 mini strawberry pies for sale Saturday, made by Tammy Birtwell of Birtwell Farm Goods, during the annual Strawberry Festival in Wayne village. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Birtwell said she made the pies ahead of time and froze them so, as the festival neared, they could be put in the oven and baked. She said the key to a good strawberry pie is to keep the filling simple, and, in her case, use her grandmother’s homemade crust recipe.

Green joked that she was hoping to get paid in pies for running the pie stand alongside Mill Pond.

The summer celebration comes amid strawberry picking season, which varies but is generally in June and July.

Ashley Stevenson of Wayne-based Stevenson Strawberry Farm, a co-planner of the event, said this strawberry picking season opened June 21 and has about a week left.

She said the crop has been good this year. She said there hasn’t been much rain, which allows the berries to last longer. The dry weather hasn’t been a concern for Stevenson because they have an irrigation system and can water their plants when needed.


The Stevenson Strawberry Farm booth, which sold quarts of strawberries and strawberry shortcake, was popular as the sweet scent of the festival’s namesake berries wafted around their booth.

Birtwell said she uses all Stevenson strawberries in her pies, both because she is friends with the family and “their berries are the best around.”

Numerous craft vendors, such as Pickle’s Potions and Lotions skincare products and Tuck’s Toys of Maine wooden toys, sold their wares as a slate of musicians performed and attendees dined on pizza, dumplings, barbecue, popcorn and snow cones.

After deciding not finish Saturday’s cardboard boat race, Holly Steck waves to fans on shore as she gets towed in by the Wayne Fire Department’s boat during the annual Strawberry Festival in Wayne village. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Holly Steck, Emma Steck’s aunt from Texas, competed in a cardboard boat designed like a loon, complete with a baby cardboard loon she towed behind her. They finished the craft about an hour before the race and had not yet tried it out, in part because a cardboard boat, even when you’re just trying it out, doesn’t hold up to water for very long. She joked that she looked forward to trying it out for the first time in front of festivalgoers, so if it sank, she’d have plenty of people to witness it.

“They told me it’s not that far, but I’m like ‘it’s a long way for a cardboard box,'” Holly Steck said before her race. “It’ll be a fun experience either way.”

Other festival events included a strawberry jam contest and free kids’ activities.

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