Peoples Bank Celebrates Burlington’s Berry Dairy Days in June

In 1937, a group of Burlington’s volunteer firefighters organized a fundraiser to purchase new equipment. Deciding to tie the event to the area’s vibrant strawberry farming, the fundraiser’s cornerstone was a giant strawberry shortcake, pulled down Fairhaven Avenue in red wagons and shared with anyone who wanted a piece. Eighty-six years later, the event – now known as Berry Dairy Days – continues as one of Skagit County’s most vibrant festivals, with Peoples Bank as the title sponsor.

Peoples Bank employees Alan Garcia (left), Jodi Rose (middle), and Rachel Reim-Ledbetter (right) getting ready for last year’s event. Photo courtesy: Peoples Bank

Nichole Long, marketing and events director for the Burlington Chamber of Commerce, says the annual tribute to community and agriculture has evolved over the decades but never ceases to be a fun, wholesome community event.

The genesis of the name Berry Dairy Days harkens back to the 1950s when the combined powers of Sakuma Brothers berries, Darigold cream, and a local bakery tried crafting the world’s largest strawberry shortcake, Long says. While it didn’t break the world record, it was delicious, nonetheless. 

Today’s modern three-day affair, which takes place Friday, June 16 through Sunday, June 18, 2023 in downtown Burlington, offers something for everyone, from fireworks and a parade to live music, a car show, and a barbecue competition. This year will also feature a pie eating contest, cornhole tournament,  and the long-anticipated return of lawnmower racing.

“We have everything, plus more, going into this year’s festival,” Long says.

The newly renamed ‘Smoke and Grill’ Competition is always popular, drawing as many as three or four thousand people during the course of the festival. It’s also among the favorite parts of Berry Dairy Days for Jodi Rose, Peoples Bank retail branch manager.

“I’m a big fan of the food at Berry Dairy Days, but what gets me even more excited is the opportunity to be a part of this celebration of our community – of the people, small businesses, and families who make Burlington and the surrounding areas a great place to live and work,” she says. “It’s truly an honor to be the title sponsor and part of the organizing team that makes this event possible.”

Berry Dairy Days Embodies the Sense of Community

Last year’s event brought in about 18,000 unique visitors, setting a new record for attendance. On average, around 16,000 people frequent Berry Dairy Days in one form or another, with downtown businesses thriving on the increased foot traffic.

large crowds lining a street to watch a parade
The festival’s grand parade usually draws around 100 entries and a healthy crowd. Photo courtesy: Peoples Bank

And as title sponsor since 2019, Peoples Bank is a natural choice to work with the Chamber on making Berry Dairy Days so successful. The bank has long-standing roots in supporting the success of Skagit Valley farmers and agricultural producers, as well as investing in the overall economic and cultural strength of the community. 

Peoples Bank will also have a booth at this year’s festival, allowing people a chance to chat with community bankers while also taking home plenty of free swag.

“This community is just amazing,” Rose says, of the collaborations involved with Berry Dairy Days. “Everybody helps each other, supports each other, and makes this event happen. We’re so proud and excited to be a part of this event year after year.”

Long also notes that the Chamber prides itself on connecting commerce to the community, something that Peoples Bank is also quite good at.

a large crowd behind a white table where three women are sitting with drinks on it.
Jodi Rose, Peoples Bank Retail Branch Manager (second from right), served as a parade judge with community leaders in 2019. Photo courtesy: Peoples Bank

As a centerpiece of Berry Dairy Days, the grand parade is among the area’s biggest – with over 100 entries that include farming equipment, marching bands, and cheer squads, among other local organizations and businesses.

New this year is the Paint Party on Fairhaven, which will allow visitors to group-paint a special festival image under the instruction of Different Strokes with Alecia, a local painting lesson business.

And of course, the strawberry shortcake booth will be serving up plenty of tasty treats.

In all, it takes the Chamber and the City of Burlington about nine months to plan Berry Dairy Days before it happens, meaning there are only a couple of months of downtime before the entire process starts again.

Wooden booth with three workers in it with yellow writing that says, 'Tigers.'
Strawberry shortcake, long-associated with Berry Dairy Days, is always on-hand. Photo courtesy: Peoples Bank

Though Long has always enjoyed attending Berry Dairy Days as a community member, she has even more pride for it now, seeing the hard work that goes into making sure the event is as awesome as can be. As such, her favorite part is simply experiencing the joy of being there and seeing that joy reflected in others.

“From the little kid whose eyes light up because they were able to get a lollipop from the kids’ booths, all the way to the elderly couple enjoying that strawberry shortcake in front of our visitor’s information center, it’s truly meant to be an all-age, family fun event,” Long says. “We’re just so honored to continue to have the opportunity to bring this to Burlington.”

To learn more about Berry Dairy Days and other Burlington events, see the Burlington Chamber of Commerce events calendar.


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