Thursday afternoon, it was a given that strawberry red would be the stand-out color at the Kokomo Downtown Association’s annual Strawberry Festival.
But apparently no one expected a restaurant’s clownish mascot that his rosy-red coloring would be just as popular.
Maybe, more so.
As they do every year, hundreds of people waited in line to purchase Amish-made shortcakes topped with vanilla ice cream, strawberries and whipped cream. Yet, many more people sat down in front of Courthouse Square — some without the strawberry dessert — and accepted a high-five from a red hand belonging to Ronald McDonald.
“Forget the strawberries,” said Tracy Miller, “I can get strawberries anytime and anywhere, but how often can you see Ronald McDonald? My kids are really enjoying this.”
Volunteers from the KDA, which is part of the Greater Kokomo Economic Development Alliance, were expected to serve out 3,150 shortcakes during the event, said Jeb Conrad, president of the Alliance. Those shortcakes, made by Millerview Amish School, were topped with 380 cans of whipped cream, donated by Meijer of Kokomo, 195 gallons of Glover’s vanilla ice cream and 2,100 pounds of strawberries from Moore’s Pie Shop.
McDonald’s also offered samples of their new strawberry lemonade to complement the shortcake, which sold out early.
However this year, in addition to featuring strawberries, the KDA made a promotional partnership with McDonald’s, said Sherry Matlock, the event’s co-chair. Through the partnership, she said, “we really saw an increase in the number of kids and families here this year.”
“It seems people are also staying downtown longer this year and even some of the business are more involved this year,” said Matlock. “They are offering strawberry-themed events and foods. People are seeing our downtown is a good place to gather. This partnership with McDonald’s really was a good fit with the festival. If they want to come back next year, we would love to have them.”
Ronald McDonald helped to entertain the crowd, especially after the shortcakes were sold out. Also, students from The Rhum Academy of Music provided musical performances throughout the day.
“This has really been a great festival,” said Marcie Fenske, of Planet Mind, formerly Pointy Pencil.
Fenske’s downtown store offered free crafts for children.
“There are really more children down here this year,” she said. “I really like the way it was promoted. I have four kids and they have been excited about Ronald McDonald being here and I’ve been excited about trying [McDonald’s] strawberry-lemonade drink. I really applaud the city for what they are doing. It’s been more than one thing going on here today and that has people excited.”