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Here's why the Pungo Strawberry Festival was canceled again

36th annual Pungo Strawberry Festival to take place over Memorial Weekend
Posted at 4:44 PM, Feb 08, 2023

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — For Tammy Burroughs Hindle, the Pungo Strawberry Festival's not only her community's legacy, but her family's legacy.

Her parents helped co-found the festival back in the 1980s.

“It has become an institution,” Burroughs Hindle told News 3. “It’s sort of an old-time, main street, downtown celebration of the strawberry and agriculture in our city.”

For 37 Memorial Day weekends, the festival was a mainstay in Pungo.

“Every weekend, on Memorial Day, it’s a chance to highlight the military, tourism, and agriculture,” Virginia Beach City Councilmember Rocky Holcomb said.

But in 2020, COVID called off the festival.

The festival was also called off again in 2021, 2022, and now 2023.

This year's reason, organizers told News 3, was not being able to secure land use agreements needed for parking.

READ: 2023 Pungo Strawberry Festival canceled, organizers say

“It’s been a big squeeze, because you have to have vendor parking, and those folks need to get back and forth to their vehicles,” Burroughs Hindle said. “The [festival’s executive] board is sad that the festival has come to an end in its existing footprint. We’re so thankful for the 37 years that we had, and we’re thankful for the vendors and the landowners who’ve allowed us to stage the event on their property over the years.”

“It is packed,” Holcomb added. “There’s a lot of cars, and a lot of traffic moving in and out of that two-lane road.”

For 25 years, Gene Hansen helped provide parking for the festival on his 73-acre farm.

“15,000 [cars], maybe more,” Hansen said.

That is, Hansen said, until a few years back.

“They used to park here, but with disagreements that occurred, they’re not allowed to park here,” Hansen said.

We asked Burroughs Hindle about Hansen's comments.

“That worked for a few years, and then it came to an end, and fortunately, the city stepped up and replaced that parking for us,” Burroughs Hindle said.

Meanwhile, Holcomb, a longtime volunteer for the festival, is open to having conversations with anyone to keep the event going in Virginia Beach.

“It’s not dead, but it’s certainly on life support,” Holcomb said. “I think there could be some options for a change of venue. There could be some options for less vendors, maybe, and not have it as crowded.”

As for what the festival could look like exactly, both Burroughs Hindle and Holcomb say that’s still in the works.

For Burroughs Hindle, she's focused on the future, hopeful for a return in 2024.

“We need to continue to honor our agriculture and celebrate the strawberry,” Burroughs Hindle said. “Spreading it out throughout the city, to me, seems like a great way to share our love for it.”

Burroughs Hindle also told News 3 that the festival’s future could involve spreading the event out through different areas of Virginia Beach, or even spreading it out over different weekends in May.

Overall, her message to residents is to be patient with the festival’s reorganization and reflect on the memories in the meantime.