Already known for its big, sweet, juicy strawberries and always eager to encourage tourism and stimulate local shopping while honoring our strawberry farmers, Ponchatoula is eagerly awaiting the arrival of our biggest berry yet…
The city works diligently to continue adding services and attractions to become part of its tradition as memory-makers for residents as well as visitors.
The latest is the “Strawberry Project” which has been underway for months, now nearing readiness for unveiling just days before the Strawberry Festival.
The idea for the project came from Middendorf’s Karen Pfeifer during a visit to her husband’s hometown in Germany, a town known for its strawberries and home to a large strawberry model placed in a strategic location.
“This is what we need in Ponchatoula,” Karen commented, noting the attention the big berry gets with visitors posing for photos and with its pictures posted all around as the town’s symbol.
When Karen suggested doing something similar here, her enthusiasm spread to local residents wanting to be part of it. She and Kim Zabbia volunteered to head the project and donations began rolling in so quickly that the Strawberry Project is already paid for – all privately funded.
The cast-resin strawberry with stem is 9’ tall and 7’ wide at the top. Plaques recognizing sponsors will be imbedded into bricks surrounding the berry in the city’s new parking lot.
Carla Tate and the Tangipahoa Parish Convention & Visitors Bureau led the way in donations with Mayor Bob and Kim Zabbia following suit. They and the City thank the following donors: Middendorf’s, LeFleur de Lis, Strawberry Festival Board, Chesterton Square, First Guaranty Bank, Roux & Brew, and the family of Ernie Drake, Jr., giving in his memory.
Workers will install the berry by climbing inside and bolting it to the concrete before climbing atop to fasten the stem in place, making this the first large berry we’ve had since the one made by long-ago PHS art students and affixed for years to what was formerly city hall.
Long-time residents will recall Mayor Charles Gideon’s asking the then Hammond mayor to relinquish the title of “Strawberry Capital”, proving with written records more berries were shipped each day from here than Hammond. Reluctantly, he did, and off went Mayor Gideon to the Legislature where Ponchatoula was declared “Strawberry Capital of Louisiana”.
Former first lady Alice Gideon says that was all her husband wanted, and he began having strawberries painted on anything and everything he could. He even held a contest for the naming of their new home. “Strawberry Manor” won. The winner? A Hammond lady!
A second phase of the current project will further enhance the strawberry theme, starting with businesses at the city’s entry from the interstate, all the way along main street through downtown and beyond as each is now given the opportunity to purchase and display its own replica of the big berry. The weather-worthy strawberry urns (or planters), are 24” tall and 22” wide, with holes in the bottom for bolting down and for drainage and can be used for decoration or live plants. All are being made by artist Val Sykes of Tech World FX Studios in Madisonville.
The cost is $385 and resident Dorothy Blackwell has already started the trend for residential homes by ordering two for her and Charlie’s front yard!
Order forms are available at City Hall. For further information, call Kim Zabbia at 985-974-2079 or Karen Pfeifer 504-382-1538 and watch the media for the date and time of the unveiling.