Hundreds flock to annual Strawberry Festival in Douglaston

Parishioner Regina Dougherty is the chairwoman of the Zion Episcopal Strawberry Festival, which is in its 187th year.
Photo by Nat Valentine
By Naeisha Rose

Droves of people had a sweet Saturday as they came out to celebrate the 187th year of the Zion Episcopal Church’s Strawberry Festival in Douglaston.

The chairwoman of this event was Regina Dougherty of Fresh Meadows.

“To me this is such a beautiful portrayal of community,” Dougherty said. “It’s beautiful to see all kinds of people. Children, adults and the elderly, it’s amazing and a great time.”

More than a hundred people were at the event eating fresh Long Island strawberries by the quart, strawberry shortcake and strawberry ice cream on the hot June day. Kids had their face painted, created sand castles and jumped around in a bouncy house. Others danced around listening to a pre-mixed set of hit songs from artists like Bruno Mars or played soccer. The churchyard had a flea market where vendors sold painted rocks, jewelry and fresh honey.

“I painted the stones from Long Island Sound,” Little Neck native Joanna Stenzil. “All hand-painted.”

Beekeeper Ruth Harrigan sold honey from bees that are raised in Douglaston.

This was Harrigan’s first year selling honey at the festival she said. “We were quite busy today and it was nice to get support from the community and friends and family that showed up.”

Going to the strawberry festival every year was Lisa Oranges.

“I grew up here,” said Lisa Oranges, who attends the festival every year. “So when I was 15 and I started making my jewelry, I was like ‘oh my God, this is a great place to be a vendor.’”

Presiding over the church at 243-01 Northern Blvd. is the Rev. Lindsey Lunnum.

“It’s in our DNA to do this,” said Lunnum, who started working at the church four years ago. “We want the whole neighborhood to celebrate the beauty of this place and the spirit here.”

This is especially important because most people pass by the church, which has tombstones throughout the grounds, and assume there is only a cemetery at the diverse multi-ethnic church, according to a parishioner who volunteered to sell strawberries to raise money for the church.

“We’ve been doing signage so that people know that we are here, because a lot of people don’t realize there is a church all the way up on the top of that hill,” Marguerite Lebron said. “We are here, we are vibrant and we are inclusive.”

The fund-raiser will also help raise money for the Rhythm of Grace program, which is close to the pastor’s heart.

“We’ve been doing it for about three years,” Mary O’Sullivan said. “It’s a program for children on the autism spectrum, but also any special needs child. [Lunnum] has a child on the autism spectrum and it is very dear to her. The idea is that we want a service for children where they can talk, walk around and participate and it relaxes the parents because they don’t have to go shhh. That happens in churches sometimes,” said O’Sullivan, who teaches the interactive service for the kids.

Some of the chilren have learned the Lord’s Prayer and now can sing hymns like “Jesus Loves Me,” according to O’Sullivan.

Seamus, Lunnum’s 10-year-old son, has autism, and she is happy that through this program not only does she have a comfortable place for her son to be himself, but she has helped to extend that feeling to other parents as well with other special needs kids too.

“It’s been wonderful for the whole family,” Lunnum said. “We realized that families have very few places where they don’t have to apologize for their special needs child.”

The Rhythms of Grace service will resume Oct. 7. and the church is located.

Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4573.

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