WADHAMS - A summer tradition more than a century old will not only liven spirits in this small hamlet, but will also help bring new life to an even older community building.
The Wadhams United Church of Christ will host its annual Strawberry Festival June 20, 1-4 p.m. featuring traditional strawberry shortcake treats, cold beverages, live music, and more.
Proceeds from the event will be used toward the continued renovation of the church's fellowship hall, a building dating from the 1830s. It originally served as part of a hotel with the ground floor being used as a stable and the second floor a theater and dance hall.
In 2003, the church completed an exterior renovation of the fellowship hall largely funded by a state historical grant. Much has been done since then to renovate the interior, the latest additions being a ramp for handicap access and a newly remodeled kitchen.
"We've had the Strawberry Festival under the most adverse conditions, even before we were able to use the fellowship hall," said event organizer Carole Harsh, "so its such a joy just to be able to use this building."
Both Carole and her husband, Bob, have been closely involved in the renovation efforts, which have benefitted from the generosity of many local contractors. Festival attendees will have an opportunity to view the latest repairs.
"It's really been a community effort," said Bob. "People realize that it is a community resource, and hopefully it will be used that way."
Last year, the Strawberry Festival raised about $2,000 toward the renovations. The Harshes estimate about $5,000 more is needed to finish remodeling the first floor of the fellowship hall.
Local artists Staber and Chasnoff will perform folk music under the tent from 2-3 p.m., and Westport keyboardist Daniel Linder will perform on the church theater organ 3-4 p.m. in the church sanctuary.
Wadhams artists Matthew Looby, Kevin Raines and Paul Rossi have donated paintings to be raffled at the event. Tickets are $1 each or six for $5 and will be drawn at 4 p.m. A community lawn sale will take place alongside the church and a sale of homemade baked goods will also benefit the renovations.
"It's been really nice to have so many people in the community have a hand in this," said Carole.