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story.lead_photo.caption Xander Johnson, 2, takes a ride at the Cabot Strawberry Festival last year. The festival, which will begin on Thursday and last till Saturday, is organized and run by the Junior Auxiliary of Cabot.

— In the city of Cabot, few things indicate the introduction of warmer weather than fresh strawberries. Folks wait on local growers to open their stands, and sometimes — like the beginning of this season – farmers sell out of the coveted crops quickly.

“A lot of people in the area wait for Cabot strawberries,” said Wendy Bass, president of the Cabot chapter of the Junior Auxiliary. Just like the berries themselves, the Cabot Strawberry Festival has become a signal of spring. This year’s festival will take place Thursday through Saturday.

The Cabot Strawberry Festival is organized and run by the Junior Auxiliary of Cabot, a civic organization that renders charitable services to the community.

“We all love the Strawberry Festival. It’s by far our biggest fundraiser for the year,” Bass said. “It’s a very big, very important event for us. … What a lot of people don’t understand is that we have about 30 members who put on an event that we expect 15,000 people to attend.”

Bass said the Strawberry Festival is the biggest fundraiser the organization has and allows the Junior Auxiliary to do many things in Cabot.

“The money that we raise at the Strawberry Festival goes toward our 17 upcoming service projects for the year,” she said. “That includes Warm a Child’s Heart and other projects.”

Through Warm a Child’s Heart, the Junior Auxiliary provides socks and underwear to children through the schools. Aside from specific projects, the money raised at the Strawberry Festival goes into JA’s welfare budget.

“That goes to support the school, if [students] have a need for shoes, clothing or even paying an electric bill — any way that we can help,” Bass said.

The Strawberry Festival will feature some new activities this year, she said, including a Strawberry Social Friday night.

“It’s kind of a smaller event, but we’re really excited about it,” she said.

Participants of the Strawberry Social will be judged on their strawberry skills. The three categories are Judges’ Choice: Tasty Award; Judges’ Choice: Best in Decor; and Strawberry Fest Fan Favorite.

“You don’t have to be a business to participate,” Bass said.

Bass said that while the Kid Zone is a regular feature of the Strawberry Festival, this year the area will be free to festivalgoers because of a sponsor.

Additionally, Bass said, the live entertainment this year will be top-notch.

“The entertainment lineup this year is the best we’ve ever had,” she said. “There’s a lot that is kid- and family-friendly. The Strawberry Festival is a family event, and we try to stress that and support that so everyone will bring their families out.”

The entertainment lineup includes the Morley Family Magic Show and The Rios on Friday night; and the Little Rock Zoo, local dance and performance groups, the Museum of Discovery — along with several other acts — throughout the day Saturday, concluding with the Zac Dunlap Band at 7 p.m.

Carnival rides will begin Thursday night, the Strawberry Social will be Friday night, the fourth annual Sweatin’ for the Berries 5K Walk/Run and 1 Mile Fun Run is set for Saturday morning, and vendor booths, the Kid Zone, food trucks and entertainment will go on all day Saturday.

Bass said the best way to find out more information on any portion of the Strawberry Festival is to visit the Junior Auxiliary of Cabot Strawberry Festival Facebook page at www.facebook.com/Strawberryfestivalcabot or the JA’s website at www.jacabot.com.

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