PORTLAND, Tenn. (WTVF) — A middle Tennessee tradition turns 80.
“Strawberries here, grown here, are the best strawberries anywhere in the world,” said Portland mayor, Mike Callis.
The 80th Middle Tennessee Strawberry Festival celebrates what was once Portland's most well-known product.
“It became one of the biggest producing areas for strawberries and right across the road where we used to have the railroad tracks, they would come, they would load up to 30 railroad cars a day of strawberries,” said Callis.
Although the crop is no longer as popular, the tradition still lives on even after last year's cancellation due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Now we’ve only canceled twice - once for World War II but once for COVID of course last year," said CEO and President of the Portland Chamber of Commerce, Sherri Ferguson.
However, strawberries aren't the only food you'll find there. The festival kicked off Friday evening and will feature more than 175 vendors on Saturday along with a parade and visit from Governor Bill Lee.
“It’s exciting for us. We know we have a lot to offer here and it’s nice that when other people come in and say ‘wow this is a wonderful community, we like being here, it’s fun, people are friendly,” said Callis.
With all eyes on Portland, the celebration is also an economic driver for the area.
“Our local businesses have just been really excited about being able to bring it back and then the vendors, again, without having anything last year we’re hoping this will jump-start their economy because they struggled,” said Ferguson.
This year the festival is introducing something new. You can download the Middle Tennessee Strawberry Festival app on your phone for the event schedule and information about parking.
City leaders say the festival not only marks eight decades of tradition but a return to some normalcy after what was a difficult year for the community.