Pungo Strawberry Festival called off, here’s why


Chloe Purvis

Despite the cancellation of the 2023 festival, ‘Home of the Strawberry Festival’ sign remains to stand proud and welcome all to Pungo Village on May 25, 2023, right outside of Red Barn on Indian River Road.

For over three decades, families have planned to attend the Pungo Strawberry Festival every Memorial Day weekend. However, this year is the fourth year in a row that the event has been called off, and it is unclear whether or not it will return.

“In some ways, the festival became a victim of its own success,” said festival organizers in the 2022 cancellation statement.

Organizers canceled the festival in 2020 and 2021 due to COVID-19. Now that the pandemic is no longer a national emergency, different problems arose which caused the 2022 and 2023 cancellation. 

“I was planning on attending the Pungo Strawberry Festival this year before I head to college,” said senior Emerson Hundley. “Now that COVID-19 has practically ended, I wasn’t expecting the cancellation.”

According to virginiabeach.com, the Pungo Strawberry Festival debuted in 1983 with a crowd of only 50,000 people. The last festival to see the grounds of Pungo was in 2019, with over 120,000 attendees. Various festival activities include a petting zoo, carnival rides, pie eating contest, shopping and of course, loads of strawberries. 

“My family and I have gone to the Strawberry Festival for as long as I can remember, I would call it a tradition of ours,” said freshman Dylan Conway. “Since it’s been canceled, we really have nothing to do for Memorial Day.” 

The Pungo Strawberry Festival executive board declared the 2023 cancellation on Feb. 8, 2023, a little over three months before the anticipated event, according to the Pungo Strawberry Festival Facebook page.

“We were unable to secure the land-use agreements we needed to hold our festival in the manner to which we are all accustomed,” the statement read. “Without sufficient parking, we could not develop a traffic plan to get patrons into and out of the Pungo area quickly and safely.”

With the amount of attendees growing more and more each year, the event has outgrown the two lane road. Although the Strawberry Festival is a staple of Pungo Village, relocation may be required in the future to ensure the festival’s livelihood. 

“Thank you to all who have supported the Pungo Strawberry Festival for 37 years and will continue to do so going forward,” the statement read. “We are committed to working with all stakeholders to see if we can revive the festival in the future.”