Only on Vashon – The Strawberry Festival Rundown 2022

This year my family marched in the Strawberry Festival Parade with the Girl Scouts. We provided the kids with poster boards and markers to create signs extolling the virtues of scouting. They wrote  “I ❤️ candy” on them.

One child didn’t want to make a sign because she had a handful of caterpillars, so we spent time procuring a cup from the church and filling it with leaves so her caterpillars wouldn’t be hungry. Meanwhile, my younger daughter got into the buckets of sweets we brought to throw into the crowd and stained her mouth blue with a cotton-candy flavored lollipop.

I took a moment to appreciate this car, which was parked in the church lot.

We loaded our cart with small children and buckets of candy, to which one parent added temporary tattoos and novelty pens. 

When it was time to line up in the street, everyone was politely making room for people in front of them, and we found ourselves at the very front of the pack. And thus we ended up being the avant-garde, leading the parade. 

I have never led a parade before. I don’t think I’m the best person to be the face of a parade, as I’m so unremarkable that people routinely bump into me and say, “Sorry, I didn’t see you there!”

But the crowd was ready for a parade, so everyone clapped as we rolled on by. At least they did for the first two blocks. Once we passed Subway, the clapping was half-hearted. Had we lost our spark, or is there something lacking in the souls of the people who line up north of town?

As we marched along, the kids in the wagon hurled lollipops and starburst into the crowd at near escape-velocity, and spectators had to dodge to avoid getting an eye put out by a projectile Tootsie Pop. Pens proved harder to throw. They just don’t have the heft of Tootsie Pops, which are as dense as a neutron star. So the pens clattered to the ground. No one rushed to pick them up. My apologies to all my fellow marchers who stepped on pens, or rode over them with tractors or shopping cart wheels. 

When we got to what we assumed was the end of the parade route, we pulled to the side to watch the rest of the parade go by. 

We met up with friends who were in town from California, and they were impressed by the creativity of the costumes and floats. They especially loved the squids and jellyfish. 

And the birds: 

As well as the world’s loveliest cow:


 When I was younger, I never understood the stories about how Zeus would turn women into beautiful cows and seduced them, but now I get the appeal.

I’m not sure what group this car full of clowns represented, but I love them and their bumper sticker.


Many groups tossed out candy, and my younger daughter kept picking up taffy and putting it in my pocket to save for later, where it promptly melted. 

She did manage to get her hands on a root beer flavored lollipop, which added a sticky patina around her now-blue mouth.

Once the parade ended, we headed to Island Queen, where my younger daughter got soft-serve ice cream, lending a fresh gloss over the lollipop sugar that was congealing on her chin. 

Afterward, my friends decided to get strawberry shortcake while our older daughter ran unsupervised through town with friends. My husband made the long trek back to the car to put the wagon away, and I took our younger daughter to the bouncy house to burn off all the sugar, hoping her face would not stick to the inflatable plastic. 

My friend promised me a thorough rundown of her experience eating the strawberry shortcake so I could pass that information on to you, dear readers. She has a master’s degree and is a capable writer, so I expected a treatise on mouthfeel and flavor undertones. After we met again, she said, “We got the Mondo. It was big. It took a long time to eat.”

She is not getting kickbacks for that review.

Our friends are politically active and were curious about the candidates for unofficial mayor. They wanted to vet each one and make an informed decision before voting. We stopped by the booth for Buddy the Bulldog to find out about his platform. Unfortunately, Buddy had gotten tired and hot, so he had gone home. However, his campaign surrogate Alice the Boxer was in the booth, and she informed us that Buddy supports Universal Basic Income and plans on reducing plane noise by any means necessary.

We eventually wore ourselves out and headed home. I returned later that evening to watch the coronation of the new unofficial mayor. 

Two women were MCing and referred to themselves as members of NAFTA, the National Association of Fairies, Trolls And etc. They called themselves The Mayorettes, on account that they had held the office of unofficial mayor some years ago. I later heard others refer to them as The Washington State Fairies.

Buddy the Bulldog (not to be confused with Buddy the Black Lab) won. His handler referred to him as “sixty-eight pounds of rippling steel.”

He is the leader we need in these trying times, and I will follow him into battle. 

Here is Buddy being awarded the key to the city:

What door does the key to the city open? Maybe the galley on the ferry? 

Sunday started out with the car show, which I had totally forgotten about until I got stuck in traffic because of it. Luckily, I was headed in the opposite direction and could watch as cars passed me by. I wanted to honk to show my appreciation, but I was worried that the driver ahead of me would think I was honking at them for being stuck in gridlock. 

I’m thankful that I got to see this beauty go by: 

It begs the question: Is Barbie driving the hearse, or is she dead and being transported in the hearse? 

And then there was this car, which perfectly juxtaposed the Barbie hearse. If we lived in a Pixar movie, these cars would get married. 

I had come Sunday morning to drop my older daughter off so she could run amok with friends. I wanted to take my younger daughter to see the Reptile Man. She wanted to stay home, which greatly disappointed me because I wanted to see the Reptile Man, and having a six-year-old is the perfect excuse to go see him. 

I decided to just go see him on my own. 

On my way over, I stopped at the Senior Center booth, which was offering wise bad advice. 

They first said to me when I asked for advice: “Have some candy.” I took a piece of hard candy and stuck it in my pocket, and I just now realized that I never took it out, and it’s probably gone through the wash. 

They asked if I had any problems they could advise me on. My mind is an endless parade of anxieties, so I randomly picked a worry. “I’m not good with money.” 

Their advice was: “Keep spending.” They also said, “You’ll love the upcoming recession.” 

They have a point. If everyone is anxious about money, I won’t feel so alone. 

They also veered off topic and said, “In marriage, you can either be happy or right.” This is terrible advice because nothing brings me more joy than the vindication that I was right about something. 

Finally, they asked if I wanted to sign up to join the Senior Center. When they found out I’m too young to qualify as a senior citizen, I promised them I’m old at heart, and they let me sign up for their mailing list.

Then a kid came by and asked for advice. They said, “give us your blueberries.” 

I went to the main stage to check out the Reptile Man. I was in the back where I couldn’t see, but I could hear bits and pieces. He said, “You have two brains, a big brain and underneath it, a little brain.”

He said he had a smart lizard who recognized 10 human words. 

When Alice the Alligator started to pee, he held her out and sprayed the crowd. He said, “Alligator pee doesn’t smell, there’s no germs in it, you could drink it.” 

He said if you push down on an alligator’s eyes, its blood pressure drops, and it falls asleep. However, this trick doesn’t work on big ones, so this knowledge won’t save you if you find yourself in a pickle in a swamp. 

He also said alligators never stop growing and can live for 100 years. 

At the end of his show, he put the animals out and let us pet them. A few times, someone would pet Alice’s eyes, and she’d fall asleep on their shoulder like a baby. He told us he trusts her not to bite, but we shouldn’t touch her mouth, just in case. 

We all took turns getting selfies with the alligator. 

After taking this picture, I rounded up my older kid, who had gone to the bakery and had a cookie, to the grocery store to get a gummy snake, and then to the movie theater to buy a family-size box of Raisinets. I scolded her about making better food choices. 

Then I bought a double-size strawberry shortcake and ate it in the car on the way home.

Anna Shomsky
Author: Anna Shomsky

I'm a former teacher and a data engineer living on Vashon Island. My writing has appeared in Five on the Fifth, Women on Writing and on the Post-Culture Podcast. I wrote and produced the radio show Whispers of Vashon for 101.9 KVSH. I’ve had short stories published in the anthologies Island Stories and Chicken Scratchings, as well as through the Open Space Literary Project.

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