Thursday, 11 April 2013

Nonsan Strawberry Festival

It's been a long time coming, but it seems spring has finally arrived here in Korea. There are cherry blossom trees in full bloom, the air is getting warmer, and I can already sense the hay-fever I'll be getting a few weeks from now. Granted, things aren't quite as balmy and warm as I'd like. It's still chilly enough for a light jacket most of the time, and apparently there was even some light snow in Seoul yesterday. But for the most part, the signs of spring are present everywhere, and I can't help but feel optimistic about the coming months.

With spring comes a slew of jubilant festivals and streetside events, and last weekend, Angela and I joined Seoul Hiking Group for a trip to Nonsan Strawberry Festival. Located around halfway down the length of the country, Nonsan is South Korea's largest strawberry producing region, and holds the festival every year in spring. On our visit, the weather was very overcast and drizzly, but we didn't let that stop us having fun as we picked dozens of blood-ripe strawberries, danced with some locals, and sampled several strawberry-themed foods and drinks.

We arrived by bus near some strawberry farms just outside Nonsan city.
Jason helped translate the owner's introduction to our strawberry-picking session.
Inside the strawberry greenhouse.

Look how stoned Angela looks as she takes a mouthwatering bite out of a strawberry.
We were allowed to collect our picked strawberries in little plastic baskets.

Once we finished picking strawberries, our bus driver took us to the main festival, where we danced with some local Koreans to the beat of improvised percussion music.

This dude's dancing technique consisted of bending his knees, putting his hands behind his back, and shaking his head from side to side.
Angela dances with the coolest guy in Nonsan.
Of course, it wouldn't be Korea without the Gangnam Style dance inserted in there somewhere.
In the festival proper, we encountered some walking strawberries.

Friendly vendors sell packs of strawberries to festivalgoers.

Angela got a small strawberry face-paint.

Completely unrelated to strawberries, but there were a bunch of animals visitors could hold. Can you tell that Angela is afraid of snakes?
There were a bunch of crates with rabbits and guinea pigs, which people could freely pick up and hold.
Unfortunately, there was little supervision for the animals or their safety, and lots of kids were handling them pretty poorly. One person in our group actually kidnapped a rabbit to get it away from the rampant squeezing and abuse it was being subjected to. Hopefully she gave it a better home than this one.
Angela wanted to take one home too.
Even sadder than the manhandled bunnies was the sight of these mammals pacing around in their cramped cages while onlookers gawked at them.

Somewhat bummed out by the sad, caged animals, we moved on to other parts of the festival. Under one nearby tent was some free CPR training (helpful if a friend chokes on a strawberry).
Sampling some strawberry makgeolli (rice wine).
We didn't try any chocolate-covered strawberries because we were already kind of sick of the fruit by this point, having eaten most of the ones we'd picked at the farm. Looking at this photo though, they do look pretty delicious.
Strawberry arts and crafts classes.

The centrepiece of the festival was this large tent filled with hundreds of different strawberry-related objects.

Some fake strawberry pizza. I guess if pineapple can work on a pizza, strawberry might just work too.

Strawberry-themed art.

Lots of strawberry-flavoured goodies, including a reminder of home: Tesco Strawberry Crisp cereal!
It's tiring work photographing strawberries for a living.

The rain started to fall thicker and harder later in the afternoon.

Rain aside, Angela and I had a great time at Nonsan. Strawberries can be quite expensive in the shops here, so it was great getting to sample so many for so relatively cheap. And I never expected to see such a variety of strawberry-themed foods and items. Frankly, the festival could have done without the sad, tacked-on animal petting zoo. But otherwise, colour me strawberry-red-impressed.

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