Annual Strawberry Festival, plant adoption allows students to unwind before finals

Students and community members gathered at the Elon Community Garden for the yearly spring-themed festival.

With spring semester exams around the corner, the Elon Community Garden celebrates its annual Strawberry Festival, an Elon tradition relieving students of the stressors accompanying exam week and providing the sweet taste of delicious strawberries, lemonade and ice cream.

For over a decade, Lecturer in Environmental Science and English Michael Strickland has overseen the planning and execution of the festival, though he credits the students from his class and various organizations for the success the Strawberry Festival experiences each year.

Holland Logan ’25, enjoys a strawberry and some ice cream at the Strawberry Festival, May 5, 2023, in the Community Garden on the campus of Elon University.

“It’s all students,” Strickland said. “Except for me, there aren’t really any other faculty involved. It’s my class, the Garden Studio class, and the Elon Community Garden club.”

The cohesive relationship between Strickland’s Elon Community Garden class and partnering organizations allows for a successful event. Organizations such as the Eco-Reps, the Office of Sustainability and the Sierra Club regularly partner with the Elon Community Garden. In addition to the strawberries, Elon Dining provides the highly anticipated and coveted ice cream.

Maddie Eaton ’23 is no stranger to the Strawberry Festival. Throughout her four years attending Elon, she’s tried her best to participate in the event every spring. She views the festival as the ideal way to unwind and relax before finals.

“This is the perfect event to use as a study break. First of all, it’s outside, you get to hang out, get some sunshine, and it’s really good for you to be in nature, especially during stressful times such as this,” Eaton said.

Brynn Creasman ’23 said she thoroughly enjoys attending the festival since it provides a space for students to be outside and with nature.

Performers at the Strawberry Festival, May 5, 2023, in the Community Garden on the campus of Elon University.

“The Strawberry Festival allows students to learn about the gardening club while enjoying the yummy ice cream and strawberries. It’s a space to come out and breathe for a minute amidst the chaos.”

When asked how he feels towards the event turnout, Strickland said, “It’s truly gratifying. I love doing this, and for my students, it’s one of their favorite things to do. They live for putting this event together, and when you see this kind of turnout, all the hard work put into this event is worth it.” Each year, he asks the students whether they want to continue hosting this event, and every year the response is the same: absolutely.

This spring was Jayla Martin-Beasley’s ’24 first time attending the festival and working the plant adoption table. From a student’s perspective, planning the event is a complex matter made possible using a manual containing information from previous festivals. This manual is updated annually and covers what worked, what didn’t and how the event could improve for next year.

Callahan Johnston ’23, with plants she purchased at the Strawberry Festival, May 5, 2023, in the Community Garden on the campus of Elon University.

“One of our final assignments is to add something new to it to make it easier and better and to improve upon it for next year,” Martin-Beasley said.

When asked what she hopes will happen for this event, Martin-Beasley said she hopes the event informs students who haven’t heard of the Community Garden.

“The spot is perfect for students who are between classes and have 30 minutes or an hour to sit, relax and enjoy the garden and be one with nature,” she said. “I hope awareness of the garden as a destination spot on campus to go and relax.”