VIRGINIA BEACH — The annual Pungo Strawberry Festival, traditionally held on Memorial Day weekend, has passed but the economic impact it has on the area lasts throughout the year.
It is hard to measure the exact overall economic impact of the festival because no admission is charged and money made by vendors on-site isn’t tracked — organizers, however, are able to make some estimates.
Overall they estimate more than 80,000 people attended this year’s festival which had approximately 160 vendors.
The event is run entirely by volunteers but there are certain operating expenses to account for, said Kathy Hieatt, the festival’s spokeswoman.
She said the expenses for the festival, which are paid by vendor booth fees, parking fees and other fees were $175,000 with some of those expenses still being paid out.
A big reason why the Pungo Strawberry Festival is important to the region is the charitable donations it makes to the region throughout the year.
“While we know the festival has a significant economic impact, what’s more important to us is the pride we take in putting on this free event for the community and giving any proceeds back to the community through our charitable contributions,” Hieatt said.
That giving totals out to $1.3 million over the past 35 years, she added.
The festival is in the process of making charitable donations for the year and organizers anticipate donating more than $50,000 to roughly 65 organizations, she said.
Those organizations include churches, schools and nonprofit groups.
That amount includes $12,000 for college scholarships for local high school students, Hieatt said.
In addition to the charitable giving aspect of the festival, many of the festival’s vendors are nonprofits and rely on the event to fund their budgets for the year, Hieatt said.
“We believe the festival also has a lasting economic impact on the area that extends beyond the festival weekend because it promotes Pungo and its businesses, including its agricultural industry.”
To learn more about the Pungo Strawberry Festival, click here.