Originally posted at: http://www.metrowestdailynews.com/news/20160612/sudbury-strawberry-social-brings-back-old-town-tradition

By Brad Avery

Posted Jun. 12, 2016 at 9:29 PM

Julie Gorgone, left, of Marlborough orders up her Strawberry Shortcake with whipped cream that is being prepared by Betsey Cutler at the Memorial Congregational Church’s annual Strawberry Social at Heritage Park. Daily News and Wicked Local Photo/Bradley Cauchon

SUDBURY – From its settlement in 1638 until the urbanizing years following World War II, Sudbury was known as a farming community and with that came cook-outs and festivals featuring the latest crops. For Hal Cutler, a member of the Memorial Congregational Church, his childhood memories are full of the last days of these town-wide events. But why leave them as memories?

For the third year in a row, Cutler and the church organized a Strawberry Social in Heritage Park. Since June is strawberry season, Sudbury residents were treated to an afternoon of homemade strawberry shortcakes, pink lemonade and jazz in Heritage Park.

Cutler and church member Judy Hawkins revived the long-lost tradition in 2014 to celebrate the town’s 375th anniversary. To bring back the vibe of a 1800s farm community event, the volunteer shortcake servers dressed in period clothing, which Cutler’s wife keeps in a closet at home for theater productions.

“For me personally this is our flashback to our childhood in the 1950s when the church regularly sponsored a strawberry festival,” Cutler said.

In 1989, for the town’s 350th anniversary, Hawkins spearheaded a larger strawberry festival, which drew more than 2,000 people and featured a gazebo and barbecue burgers and hot dogs. However, Sunday’s social was a more laid back affair, as neighbors and church members lounged in the park simply enjoying the music.

“It’s a nice spot, there’s good weather, great snacks and the whipped cream was made fresh,” said Hopkinton resident Leslie Sheradon.

One unexpected result of Cutler and Hawkins’ return to tradition was the creation of a new band, the Strawberry Social Jazz Ensemble. According to bass player Dan Pettengill, the group formed three years ago for the first Strawberry Social, but stuck together. A mix of what Pettengill said were pro-musicians and talented amateurs, the ensemble has since gone on to play regularly at local senior centers and assisted living homes.

“We loved it so much we kept playing,” Pettengill said.

The group specializes in tracks from the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s, which makes senior citizens their ideal audience. The group has been playing concerts every month.

“It’s a way to keep the music going,” he said.

The Strawberry Social also serves as a fundraiser for the Memorial Congregational Church and the day’s proceeds go toward general operation costs. According to Hawkins, church members are busy at work making a float for the next big town event, the 4th of July parade.

“Us townies just can’t stop,” she said.

Brad Avery can be reached at 508-626-4449 or bavery@wickedlocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @BradAvery_MW.