A New Chapter
In 1946, World War II was finally over and Mission’s residents were in need of a celebration. The Mission Memorial Hospital required renovations, and the berry industry needed a post-war boost. (For more information on the vital role of Mission’s Japanese-Canadian community in the berry industry and subsequent internment and removal during WWII, please see The Lost Pioneers).
Since Mission had promoted itself as “Home of the Big Red Strawberry” since 1910, the Board of Trade came up with the idea to host a ‘Strawberry Festival’. To encourage attendance and volunteer participation, June 26, the day chosen for the first Strawberry festival, was declared a public holiday. Seventy-five percent of the profits from the Festival went towards the hospital renovations.
The event featured many exciting activities included the crowning of a Strawberry King (for growers) and Strawberry Queen, a baseball tournament, skill games, and even a log-bucking contest.
At a Crossroads
For the first ten years, the Strawberry Festival was a highly popular and profitable event, and was promoted by the Fraser Valley Record as a delightful summer festival, unique to the Fraser Valley. The festival was first held on Main Street (now First Avenue).
One of the Festival’s committee members, Jimmy Gunn, had the idea to add a “Soapbox Derby” as an aside to the festivities, launching the beginning of a whole new iconic Mission event. The Derby quickly grew in popularity, and the Strawberry Festival was moved to Mission’s Fairgrounds where the Leisure Centre now stands. The event was cancelled after 1956 as the Soap Box Derby overtook the Strawberry Festival. Despite its best efforts, Mission was never able to fully recover its berry industry to its pre-war glory.