WINTHROP — A little girl named Sal helped make the blueberry famous, and strawberries can lay claim to enticing thousands of pickers into the broiling sun each June.

But in Winthrop, for one day a year at least, it is the raspberry that takes center stage.

“This is a big social event,” said Pastor Samuel Richards of the East Winthrop Baptist Church, which organizes the annual raspberry festival. “It’s actually a cultural event.”

This year’s festival is scheduled for 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the church at 55 Old Village Road, just off U.S. Route 202 in Winthrop. In addition to serving breakfast and lunch, there will be no shortage of pies, shakes, shortcakes and other goodies that include the sometimes underappreciated berry that gives the festival its name. Beyond the food, there will be children’s games, Model A car rides and face painting.

A team of about 20 church volunteers organize the festival, from cooking and cleaning in the kitchen to staffing the tables. The church’s young people typically oversee events such as face painting and spin art. The festival usually attracts more than 1,000 people, though Richards hopes even more will show up this year because of increased advertising.

The festival is a chance for community members to get to know each other, but it also serves as a fundraiser for youth outreach programs, Richards said. The church offers an Awana program every Sunday afternoon during the school year for high school-age teens and younger children, and it has a large young adults group, Richards said.

“We basically do it to bless, help and encourage young people,” Richards said.

Money is raised during the raspberry festival by donations and selling raspberry deserts. The church will serve breakfast, which includes muffins, waffles, sausage and bacon; and lunch, which includes lobster rolls, hot dogs and baked beans.

Richards said one of the best parts of the festival is the “open house spirit” it engenders. The festival is just one of the signs of the church’s commitment to helping and being involved in the community,

Richards said. For example, he noted the church has distributed more than $2 million worth of free food over the past 20 years.

“We may look small, but we’ve had a huge impact,” Richards said. “We’ve fed hundreds of needy families over the past two decades. We do this unto the Lord and he’s blessed it.”

Richards hopes those who attend the festival will feel loved and welcomed by the church members and maybe even be encouraged to join the church in its ministry.

“We’d like to do whatever we can to improve people’s lives and ensure them a place in heaven,” he said.

Craig Crosby — 621-5642
[email protected]

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