For festival-goers in Johnson County, summer is the main course.
They can enjoy fireworks at events such as the Greenwood Freedom Festival and Franklin Firecracker Festival; nose through local artists’ offerings at WAMM Fest; and enjoy local breweries and bluegrass in Franklin.
But as an appetizer to festival season, a handful of local organizations are getting started in the springtime.
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From fresh strawberries in Franklin’s downtown square to carnival rides at Our Lady of the Greenwood to fiber arts at the fairground, the next month offers ample opportunity to get outdoors and enjoy music, food, art and other unique county traditions.
Strawberries on the Square
When: 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. May 22
Where: Downtown Franklin square
What: Memorial Day weekend is often looked at as the gateway to the summer. Downtown Franklin offers a sticky-sweet way to celebrate it before the weekend even begins.
Strawberries on the Square will offer bowls of ripe berries and shortcake, which will go for $5 a serving until all of the strawberries run out.
The event has become a lunch-time tradition in downtown Franklin, with people stopping by the Lion’s Club fish fry before topping off their meal with shortcake, said Tara Payne, executive director of Discover Downtown Franklin.
“It’s an ingrained event for people. They look forward to it, and count on being down here for it,” she said.
While strawberries and the fish fry are the centerpiece activities, organizers have constructed an entire day’s worth of entertainment around it.
Franklin Heritage Inc. will host a fundraising garage sale throughout the day. The Historic Artcraft Theatre is screening “The Muppet Movie.” A classic car show and live music by Baldwin Street Blues will carry the celebration into the night, Payne said.
John Hartford Memorial Festival
When: May 28 to 30
Where: Bill Monroe Music Park and Campground, 5163 SR 135, Morgantown
Cost: $40 for May 28, $45 for May 29, $50 for May 30; $110 for three-day pass, until May 26; $125 afterwards.
What: John Hartford wasn’t a musician who adhered to the convention of bluegrass music. Rather than follow the stuffy unwritten rules of performers in the mid-1900s, his free-floating, easy-going performances helped usher in a new style of bluegrass that still thrives today.
“He’s had such an impact on the younger musicians of today, and now a lot of aging musicians today,” said Tom Burkhart, festival coordinator. “It’s amazing the people he has influenced.”
His music touched so many people that every year, bluegrass musicians gather in the woods south of Morgantown for an annual festival in his honor. Organizers call it “the most laid-back festival in America,” because it doesn’t have the rigid schedule and corporate backing of other large music festivals, Burkhart said.
“We have three stages going on, noon to midnight, three days in a row,” he said. “There’s music going on the whole time, and after midnight, there’s campfire jams going on all night long.”
Close to 50 bands will play over the course of three days, and the festival will host a big community dance one night. Fiddling and songwriting contests are also part of the festival.
Our Lady of Greenwood Festival
When: 5 to 11 p.m. June 4, 5 p.m. to midnight June 5, 2 p.m. to midnight June 6, and noon to 9 p.m. June 7
Where: Our Lady of the Greenwood, 335 S. Meridian St.
Cost: Free to attend; food, rides and raffles cost extra.
What: The county fair isn’t for two more months.
But thrill-seekers will have an early chance enjoy a variety of carnival rides during this annual church festival.
Organizers have created a four-day celebration in early June that features music, food, raffles and other family-friendly activities.
Taylor Matthews, a fifth-place finisher on “America’s Got Talent,” will perform two nights at the event, while Saturday’s headliner will be Indy Nile, featuring Our Lady of the Greenwood member Roger Cummings and his bandmates playing classic rock, funk and blues.
Themed family dinners, including an Italian meal, fish fry, pork chops and friend chicken, will be held each day. Booths will offer everything from tacos to pulled pork to elephant ears.
To help support the church, organizers will be selling raffle tickets, holding a silent auction and raffling off a quilt. Bingo, a cake wheel, Monte Carlo games and spin & win are also offered.
White River Township Fire Department Strawberry Festival
When: Noon to 10 p.m. June 5, 9 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. June 6
Where: Sugar Grove Elementary School, 4135 W. Smith Valley Road, Greenwood
What: For 23 years, the White River Township Fire Department has invited the community together for food, music and, of course, strawberry shortcake.
But in the midst of all the fun and games, organizers hope to educate the public on ways to stay safe in a variety of situations.
The department will have its fire engines, ladder trucks and other apparatus on display, joined by the Johnson County Command Vehicle. A safe-kids bike rodeo will teach kids the skills to safely ride in their neighborhoods.
Officials from LifeLine helicopters, Project Lifesaver and amateur radio clubs will all give demonstrations.
Vendors will provide hot dogs, hamburgers and rib-eye sandwich platters to go with the hundreds of servings of strawberry shortcake organizers will be selling.
The Kendall/Purdy Project will provide music on Friday night, while a 20-minute fireworks show will close out the festival on Saturday.
Hoosier Hills Fiber Festival
When: 10:30 to 5:30 p.m. June 5, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. June 6
Where: Johnson County Fairgrounds, 100 Fairground St., Franklin
Cost: Free; workshops cost extra
What: From knitting to crochet to felting, enthusiasts of all kinds will gather in Franklin for an annual extravaganza of the fiber arts.
The Hoosier Hills Fiber Festival will bring nearly 50 vendors together to help people complete their latest quilts, scarves or other projects. Fiber artists can buy supplies during a two-day fleece sale, and show off their finished work in contests for both adults and children.
Workshops will cover topics as intricate as Portuguese knitting, triangle loom weaving and sculptural needle felting. Beginners can learn the basics of fiber arts, while the more experienced can learn new skills for the coming year.
Historical re-enactors will demonstrate what knitting and sewing was like in the past; llama and alpaca 4-H clubs will give out information on their activities; and bands such as Bum Doubt and the Salt Creek Sweet Taters Dulcimer Group will provide entertainment.