PORTLAND, Tenn. (WTVF) — Vendors and city leaders helped kick off the 80th annual Middle Tennessee Strawberry Festival on Thursday with the event's annual farmers market.
Last year, the coronavirus forced the festival to cancel for just the second time in its 80-year history. The first time came during World War II.
"We sometimes don't realize what we have until it's gone," Portland Chamber of Commerce President Sheri Ferguson said.
Ferguson said the cancellation had a big impact on the community. In a normal year, the festival brings in tens of thousands of people and hundreds of thousands of dollars.
"With the amount of people that we have here, I would say there is an impact between the businesses and all the vendors for a good $500,000," she explained. "So it was a hard hit, but all of the vendors, they come from all over and they have been hit very hard."
One of those vendors is Rebecca Sutherland from Wade Farms. Sutherland said this year will be her first Strawberry Festival, a milestone she expected to happen last year.
"It would have been unfortunately with COVID we didn't get to go, and that was a little disappointing," she said. "It was a little bit slower so that was hard on us as far as financially and moving product."
Now she and other vendors are hoping for a major comeback this year.
"It's going to be crazy, I'm sure," Sutherland said. "I'm very nervous that we're not going to have enough berries!"
The Festival continues Friday and Saturday. For more information, including maps and schedules, visit the Middle Tennessee Strawberry Festival website.