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      Berries in abundance for Strawberry Festival

      The strawberries on Henry Ohtonen's farm are ripe for the picking. The Chassell farmer has had a constant stream of people coming to pick from his three fields since July 1.

      "They (strawberries) were a little bit smaller this year," said Michigamme resident Dain Leaf. "But they were good and there was a lot of them."

      "(We'll use them) for canning, hams, strawberry shortcakes," said Kathy Leaf. "You name it, we make it."

      There are fewer berries this year. Ohtonen estimates his crops are down 20 percent.

      "They're slow in ripening," he said, "and the production's going to be down, because it was such a dry fall last year. But the Strawberry Festival is going to have a lot strawberries."

      He delivered 800 quarts to the Chassell Lions Club on Monday for this weekend's Strawberry Festival. In all, the Lions purchased 1,200 quarts of strawberries from Keweenaw berry farmers to make their famous strawberry shortcakes.

      "Typically it's around three to four thousand," said Strawberry Festival treasurer, Bill Leonard. "Last year I think it was 3,500. So, we're thinking 3,500 to 4,000."

      The Strawberry Festival, which starts Friday morning at 9 a.m., features old favorites like shortcake, a Friday night fish boil, a parade on Saturday at 11 a.m., and the Strawberry Festival Queen crowning Friday night at 8 p.m.

      "There are about 30 percent more vendors than there were last year and the year before," Leonard said. 'That's a good indication that people have a lot of interest in it and they must do fairly well."

      There will be berries for sale along with strawberry judging. And If you want to pick berries from one of the Keweenaw area farms, they'll be ripening for the next week and a half.