Guest column: Memorial Lutheran Church of Afton Strawberry Festival



A lot happened in 1882. It was the year Thomas Edison flipped the switch to the first commercial electrical power plant in history, ushering in the electrical age. It was the year that Jesse James died and Franklin Delano Roosevelt was born. And it was the year in which Memorial Lutheran Church of Afton held its first Strawberry Festival.

The Strawberry Festival was birthed as a way to celebrate Midsummer’s Day, a Scandinavian cultural tradition. The festival was planned as a time for family and friends to gather together for food and fun and has been held year after year without interruption, becoming Memorial’s oldest tradition.

The Swedish immigrants of the time would arrive by horse and buggy, setting their food on 20-foot long tables crudely constructed by driving fence posts into the ground and placing splintery boards covered with white table cloths upon them.  Farmers would sit in the shade under a large oak tree and mix lemonade in 30-gallon crocks while slowly churning the ice cream. Nearby, farmwives in long dresses cleaned the plump, juicy strawberries grown in member’s gardens and prepared the feast for that evening. It was a time to come together as a community, to enjoy each other’s fellowship, and to give thanks for this beautiful piece of God’s creation called the St. Croix Valley.

On June 21 Memorial Lutheran Church will continue this long-standing tradition as it once again celebrates with a Strawberry Festival.

Along with the times, things have changed a bit however. For example, this year, in honor of the 50th anniversary of Beatlemania, “John Lennon” and “George Harrison” of the band Rubber Soul the Tribute will provide the entertainment. The meal will consist of a pig roast, homemade potato salad, sides, and, of course, as many strawberries as one can eat. But most importantly, all the proceeds of this year’s Strawberry Festival will go back into the community, supporting the American Cancer Society of Minnesota.

Please join the people of Memorial Lutheran Church of Afton on June 21 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. as we carry on this age-old tradition, all while supporting a wonderful cause. Memorial Lutheran Church is located at 15730 South Afton Blvd., Afton, Minn., just up the hill in down town Afton. For more information, visit or call 651-436-1138.

Derek Fossey is pastor at Memorial Lutheran Church of Afton.