The Pungo Strawberry Festival - 2003

[Events]

24th May 2003

We missed the Pungo Strawberry Festival last year. Something came up, but now I can't remember, so it can't have been too important. We were thinking about going to the Festival this year, but it's been raining. It rained most of last week, and it was a pretty fair bet that the Festival would consist of a lot of mud. But we went anyway.

Anne wanted to try an experiment, so she took the Princess Anne road. Last few times she's been to Pungo, she went via Indian River Road. The experiment was very successful. The trip was short, there was no line of cars and we were very soon at Pungo. But we screwed up. The problem was we didn't recognise the parking fields and we weren't sure how far away we were from the real action at Pungo. By the time we did realise where we were, we were at the main Pungo intersection, locked in the traffic, and forced onto Indian River Road by the traffic police. A quick trip down Indian River Road showed a huge long line of slow-moving cars, and I got really dispirited and told Anne to just head home. She didn't. We drove a few miles to where we were able to do a U-turn, and then we joined the long, long line of slow-moving cars. The traffic police at the intersection would let dozens of cars from Princess Anne through, but only one or two at a time from the Indian River Road direction.

[Line-up of cars trying to
get in]

So we sat in line and we waited and we slowly moved up. We looked at the lovely green swamp beside the road.

[Pungo swamp scene]

Yup, sure looks pretty. Until you look hard and see the massive amounts of garbage in it - the plastic bags, the tins, the bottles, the dumped tyres, the crap thrown from ten thousand cars. We waited and slowly inched ahead, helped by the impatient people who can't stand not travelling at 70 mph everywhere, who did U-turns and left. The road is narrow, and the ditches deep, and we had to laugh at the SUVs and vans who made their nine-point turns trying to escape the line. There was a young couple in an SUV ahead of us, and they started kissing, and then they started cuddling, and then they started getting really serious and when we started yelling 'Book into a motel" they unclinched, did a very clumsy nine-point U-turn and drove away clutching at each other. And then we were behind a car with a pre-teen cheerleader, and she and her brother spent a lot of time dangling out of their car. They only popped out when the car was stationary, but that was an awful lot of the time.

[Bored kids waiting for
Pungo]

One and a half hours after we got in line on Indian River Road, we made it back in to Pungo. Next year, we'll come via Princess Anne again, but we'll know where we are and find a park, any park, before we are forced onto Indian River Road again.

We crossed onto the Princess Anne road, cursing at the one and a half hour delay, went down to the big carpark. All parking was $5. Almost everyone in Pungo was raking those $5 in. Front yards, small parks in front of shops, ex-strawberry fields, everything was a carpark. We went in to the big carpark, which turned out to be concrete based. Looked like an old airfield. Why it was covered in concrete didn't concern us so much, we were filled with too much joy. Everywhere else was mud, with the possibility of having the car sink to the ankles into soft mud, but we were high and dry on good old concrete. And then it was a very short walk back into the Pungo intersection.

[Signs at the Pungo
  intersection]

First up were the strawberry fields for the do-it-yourself enthusiasts. Pay $5 and go pick your own strawberries. One year I might be tempted to try this, but for the time being I'll just buy my strawberries pre-picked at the end of the visit.

[Strawberry pickers in the
fields]

Munden's on the corner is looking a little bit more rundown.

[Munden's again]

This time they have a line of Confederate flags. The old South is rising?

[Confederate flags at
Munden's]

The first thing we did when we hit the line of stalls was get strawberry daiquiris. Pleasant enough but nothing to get really excited about.

[Strawberry daiquiris]

And Anne wanted to try a funnel cake. This is some form of batter (fat and sugar), that is deep fried (more fat) and sprinkled with icing sugar (more sugar). It tastes like you're eating fat and sugar, so it's quite pleasant to taste.

[Funnel cake]

The Pungo Festival is all along the main street in Pungo. At one end is the parking, the DIY strawberry picking and Munden's. The other end is the military and medieval displays. In between are the stalls and displays in between the regular shops. The street scene was the same as 2001. We did our first pass just quickly walking to the end to the military end, and then we turned around and walked back leisurely, looking at everything. [Pungo street scene]

So at the end are the displays of ducks and other modern war vehicles, plus plenty of fit young men in combat greens and camouflaged faces. Several were seen stuffing chewing tobacco in their mouths and surreptitiously spitting the juice out. They probably aren't allowed to smoke and this was a good, albeit messy, alternative.

[The military end of Pungo]

The medieval encampment was down there too. I was impressed with this in 2001 and spent a fair bit of time watching the sword-fighting. When we arrived, there was no fighting so I missed that bit of the entertainment. Look at the photos from 2001 near the end of the page, and look at the intense guy doing the fighting. He was back, and we spotted him walking around with his family. He's grown a beard and his hair is longer. Pity we didn't get to see him fighting again, as he's worth watching.

We did stop at the medieval stand and Anne and Evelyn had a good look at the chain mail, while I looked at the home-made weapons. I was also intrigued by the stout gentleman in the Scottish gear.

[The medieval encampment]

Anne spotted these barns and insisted I take a photo of them, sort of "rustic scene at Pungo". I reluctantly agreed, but found later that I really liked the scene, so I've included it here.

[Barn scene at Pungo]

We walked back through the stalls. I got a Gideon's New Testament, and Anne picked up a few Liberty Tax head-dresses for the kids back home. [Anne wearing the Statue
  of Liberty headdress]

There was a retro rock band on one stage, and a country band on another quite close nearby. When we arrived at the country stage, a fiddler was getting into it, and we stopped to listen. The girl helping him with the mike is the band's singer. [Country fiddler and
  singer]

More evidence of the Old South. Guy in uniform, old flags, a stall with books and mementos.

[Confederate flag stall]

And then we heard the call for the pig races, so we rushed off to see. We missed them in 2001 but wanted to see them this time. The pig races are staged by a guy who, so he claims, lives in the big van with his wife, his three kids, two dogs, two cats, an iguana and 20 pigs, and travels all over the USA putting on the pig races at fairs and festivals. The van was pretty big, but even so, according to my tastes,that's too many life-forms to pack into one vehicle.

The races started with a rah-rah description of the races. He's a showman, he's good. Just before each race, he called for individual supporters for each pig. He wanted pig-rooters. He asked for pig-rooters and the audience was full of little girls and big girls and women all wildly jumping and down and waving and screaming for the honour of being a pig-rooter. We were in stitches. The Australians will get it.

There were three races. We got introduced to a fresh young crop of wieners who hadn't raced before. They raced. They shot out of the starting post, ripped around the track in seconds and were rewarded at the finish post.

[End to the wiener race]

Another race with slightly older pigs, and again they ripped out of the stalls, tore around the track, and finished the race within seconds. The last race was the funny one. He uses Vietnamese pot bellied pigs for the final race. I've seen pot bellied pigs before, but never seen them this fat. He must keep them really porky.

The gates opened, the pigs slowly ambled out and started their waddle around the track.

[Start of the pot
  bellied pig race]

Several minutes later, after plenty of stops for relief, they ambled up to the finish line. You can see by the screaming crowd how exciting this was, how much fun it was. The pig-rooters went into a frenzy, cheering their pigs on.

[End of the pot bellied
pig race]

The last thing to do was buy strawberries. This is a strawberry festival, so you have to buy strawberries. I wanted to buy a whole box of them, but the woman on the counter said they were only selling them by the quart punnet. I checked with Anne how many she wanted, and when I came back, this old guy behind the scenes pointed to a box and asked if I wanted one. I nodded, he handed them over and I gave him the cash. I don't think the woman on the counter was too happy.

The strawberries are huge. Normally, strawberries this size are full of water and have no taste, but these ones are great. Full of flavour, ripe and juicy. We've eaten a big chunk of them already.

[Anne and the flat of
  strawberries]

Anne bought one more hippy dress, and then we headed for the car. When we got to our car park, the guys directing traffic started laughing at the sky. We looked up and started laughing too. Earlier, the plane had been flying around with a Hooters sign, but this took it one stage further. I took three photos, and in two I got the plane but no sign, and this one shows the sign but no plane. I wanted one with the both plane and sign, but it was not be. It was grey and dull and looked set to rain again, but this sign brought a smile to everyone's face.

[Plane towing sign for
nude vacations]