Ashland, Virginia –  The Ashland Strawberry Faire’s Board of Directors is excited to announce a new partnership with the Ashland Kiwanis Club.  Both groups are long-standing Ashland organizations with a history of service to the community.  Approximately a year ago, members of the Ashland Kiwanis Club approached the Board of Directors of the Ashland Strawberry Faire expressing an interest in partnering with the Board to help host the annual Faire.  “When we met to discuss Faire operations and expectations, they didn’t run away,” laughed Dani Stockwell, the Faire’s Treasurer.

“It is a monumental undertaking to put on the Ashland Strawberry Faire, which is staffed primarily by volunteers,” said Sharon Chidsey, Board President.  Chidsey has been volunteering with the Faire since about 2011.   Prior to that, she was actually a vendor at the Faire and that helps her keep things in perspective for both the volunteers and the vendors.  She readily admits she still has lots to learn from the many dedicated volunteers who have worked tirelessly for many years.  In fact, one Board member, Betty LaPlace, has served as a volunteer since the beginning of the Faire in 1982.

What started that year as a small festival held on the football field at Randolph-Macon College has grown significantly.  Betty LaPlace, Dick Gillis, and Ken Gustufson, owner of the Ashland Berry Farm, initially gathered all the local arts, crafts, and nonprofit groups they could to participate in the inaugural event.  Today the Faire still gathers the community, hosting more than 300 arts, crafts, business, and food vendors, offering special events, pageants, and musical performances which attract as many as 40,000 visitors.

The Faire committee starts preparing for the next Faire each September, which gives the group about 10 months to get organized.  The Board regularly evaluates past successes and potential improvements.  Each month, they focus on a particular aspect of the Faire, including budget, policies, vendor regulations, grants, sponsorships, printed materials, and public safety.

The Faire gives back to the community by awarding ten local scholarships each year.  “In 2017, the Board offered $6,000 in scholarship funds to graduating seniors from Hanover County Public Schools, and one in honor of former Mayor Dick Gillis, to a Randolph-Macon College student majoring in political science” said Betty LaPlace, Director of Scholarships.

A big part of the goal of the Faire is to support our many community nonprofits.   Non-profit organizations are offered free booth spaces for visibility, with a $25 administrative fee or 2 hours volunteering to setup the Faire.  Non-profit groups buy sales booths for fund raising.  All commercial food vendors that participate each year are required to sponsor and give a percentage of profits to a nonprofit of their choice.  The “Kids Zone” is run be volunteers and all profits are donated to Comfort Zone Camps.  In recent years the Faire has contributed funds to nonprofit groups in a “Grant for Work” program in trade for their volunteer hours running the Faire (i.e. setup, cleanup, vendor and/or visitor support).

The Ashland Strawberry Faire is excited about partnering with the Ashland Kiwanis Club, and to combine their efforts to support our community.  To handle Faire business and give continuity to our goals, the Board needs a minimum of eleven directors.  Currently three Kiwanis members, Dan DiCandilo, John McDaniel and Shannon McClure, have stepped up to fill empty seats on the Board.

“We really appreciate the enthusiasm of the Ashland Kiwanis Club, and more importantly, are confident that the good work of the Faire will continue,” said Stockwell.

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Both the Ashland Strawberry Faire and the Ashland Kiwanis Club are 501c3 organizations.