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Kirtland Kiwanis Strawberry Festival outlasts weather, concludes a 'success' - News-Herald.com

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Kirtland’s staple celebration of all things strawberry this year was dodging meteorological bullets since it started June 15.

Whether the weather was too hot, breezy, overcast or rainy, — the popular community event was hit a few times, briefly — none of it deterred thousands from attending the 58th Annual Kirtland Kiwanis Strawberry Festival.

“You can’t set records every year, but we’ve had good numbers,” said John Bodmer, who heads publicity/promotions for the festival. “In the past, we’ve had numbers as high as 25,000 in the four days. But attendance this year has been good. This event is always successful.

“We start with nothing early in the year and (you) end up with this turnout. I wish it would have been 70 to 80 degree weather, but we’ve also had years with bad weather, far worse than this. This year wasn’t so bad, though it was pouring right as we started (June 18) at noon.”

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Bodmer added that the Kiwanis Club of Kirtland always looks forward to the event.

“The favorite day is the last one,” he said, smiling. “This coming Thursday, we’ll already start planning for next year’s festival. We receive calls all year around from people to see how they can get in, vendors, acts, you name it. It’s something we like to get started in planning so we can sit back and relax the closer we get to the date.”

Yes, so, while shortcake-eating champion and Sheffield resident Ivan “Avocado” Mendoza scarfed treats to the contest title earlier in the festival, the dozens of people preparing his means to victory continued to do so, whipping up shortcakes, sundaes and chocolate-covered strawberries by the hundreds for all revelers.

Barbara Bodmer, John’s wife, testified to the business of the legwork.

“With our chocolate-covered strawberries, we’ve dipped 1,054 as of Saturday night,” she said. “We stay busy. We wash the strawberries, dry them with paper towels, dip them in chocolate, put them in a wrapper, refrigerate them, box them and sell them.”

John Bodmer also credits Kirtland High School with the festival’s overall success.

“They treat us wonderfully every year,” he said. “Everyone makes this happen.”

Bodmer’s been involved with the festival for 41 years, a total that still makes him smile. Back in the day, a friend of his was involved in operating a pitch and putt game when nature called. Or so Bodmer tells it, a fact, it seems, he believes even to this day to be suspicious.

“He took that bathroom break and didn’t come back until 6 hours later,” he said, laughing with incredulity. In his friend’s absence, Bodmer took over working the game and that started it all.

“I’ve also been doing publicity for the festival since 1980, and I chair the Miss Kirtland Contest. I help out wherever I can. I really enjoy it, our whole (Kiwanis) club does. There are 73 members and we run the whole festival. We get very good participation from about 95 percent (of our membership).”

For 2017, soon-to-be Kirtland High senior Ann Potter, 17, was crowned Miss Kirtland, beating out two other contestants, Holly Sanf and Brandi Martz. Julia Loncar, Miss Kirtland 2016, “passed the sash” to Potter.

Any high school student living in the Kirtland School District is eligible, Bodmer said.

Through her parents’ involvement in Kiwanis, Potter decided to enter the contest, though she said she almost didn’t take part.

“I was originally supposed to be on a trip this week, so I was going to run next year, but then those plans fell through, so I was like, ‘I might as well run this year.’ And my best friend, Julia, ran last year and she won, so she got to crown me and that was pretty cool. That was another reason I wanted to run this year, so if I did win, she’d be the one placing the crown on my head.

“It was really exciting,” she said. “The other girls did great. It had to have been a tough decision for the judges, because I had good competition, that’s for sure. They’re very nice girls, both of them.”

Each of the contestants receives $50 to participate, with the winner taking home an additional $50. Bodmer said the sum may increase next year.

“Honestly, I was in it for the fun of it,” Potter said. “Either way, it’s a lot of fun. Of course, the money is nice bonus.”

Potter, whose extracurricular activities include track, cheerleading and president of the student council, in addition to United Way Club and Key Club, aspires to go to school in Washington, D. C., to study political science, and perhaps journalism and law, after attending Lakeland Community College.

Frank Lyon, self-proclaimed “food tent leader,” along with Rick Blum, also thanked the “Kirtland Mormon Church” for its help with the festival.

“They’ve been helping us out tremendously,” he said. “We couldn’t do it without them and all of their people power.”

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