The Alva Garden Club's annual strawberry festival supports its museum. / Amy Bennett Williams/The News-Press
If you go
• What: Alva Garden Club’s annual strawberry shortcake social, plant and book sale, and museum open house
• When: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday
• Where: Alva Museum, 21420 Pearl St., Alva. From Fort Myers, take Palm Beach Boulevard (SR 80) about 15 miles east to Alva. Turn left at Broadway and head north over the bridge. Turn right on Pearl Street. The museum is on the right.
• For information: 728-3180.
• Etc.: To raise money for the museum’s upkeep, there will be raffles throughout the event, including the chance to have Nina Rigby make you a pie a month for a year. Other prizes include pizzas from the Alva Village market, Babcock Wilderness Adventure tours and meals at Alva Diner.
The Earth has made another trip around the sun, the fruit has ripened in the fields and it’s time again for my hometown’s celebration of its rural heritage with an annual strawberry festival, hosted by the Alva Garden Club.
Feel free to jump to the if-you-go box if you already know why you should come visit Alva this Saturday. But if you don’t, here’s my list of reasons to head east:
• The strawberries: Simply put, the shortcake is superlative, its crimson fruit piled atop juice-soaked golden pastry heaped with whipped cream. But you can buy the berries alone, provided by Tommy Brittain, whose multigenerational family farm also grows eclectic crops ranging from glads to rainbow Swiss chard to snow-white eggplant. Or stop at the farmstand just west of town on SR 80.
• The museum: Alva may be small — only 100 or so souls live in its tiny downtown, with the remaining 2,000 give or take scattered nearby — but it’s historic. The first incorporated town in Lee County, its library building, now part of the Alva Museum, is the county’s oldest. The garden club runs and cares for the museum, and the strawberry festival is its major annual fundraiser. It will be open during the festival so you can check out its collection, which includes mammoth teeth, Indian canoes, pieces of Mina Edison’s wardrobe and some fascinatingly scary antique medical implements.
• The food: Beyond the strawberry shortcake and Farmer Brittain’s produce, the ladies of the club will be selling baked goods. Across the river, the Alva Diner serves its famous broasted chicken and biscuits while Matt Miller’s General Store next door offers local honey and boiled peanuts. So does the Handy store across the street, along with chicken gizzards, potato logs and cute little brown paper bags for your beer.
• The feel: Alva can’t offer cafes, malls or art galleries, but we do have palmetto scrub, cypress swamps, creeks and cattlemen, kids with old-fashioned manners and garden club members like Nina Rigby who bake from scratch. In fact, a staple of the festival is the annual raffle of Nina’s pie of the month. Whoever wins gets 12 of her from-scratch creations in cherry, strawberry, coconut ...
• The river: Flowing through the center of town, the Caloosahatchee is Alva’s liquid heart. The little pier at the town’s boat ramp boasts excellent views, as does the Caloosahatchee Regional Park, a few scenic miles west on State Road 78.
• The critters: The Alva Scrub Conservation 20/20 preserve and the Caloosahatchee Regional Park are both home to plenty of wildlife, including gopher tortoises, whitetail deer and scrub jays. Cattle, horses and goats thrive on our ag lands. But drive along SR 78 and you’re likely to glimpse some of the more unusual Alva animals — alpacas, camels, zebras — grazing in roadside fields. And if they’re not out showing themselves, check out their facebook page: facebook.com/AnimalsofAlva
• The cemetery: I’m more a cremation type myself, but with its wind chimes, bovine neighbors and Spanish moss, this place could easily make me change my mind.
• The fragrance: It’s citrus blossom season. There are healthy groves on both sides of the road leading to the Alva Cemetery. Need I say more?
Amy Bennett Williams’ Field Notes videos are on The News-Press’ tablet site at 8 p.m. Thursdays and on the Web at news-press.com Fridays.