PONCHATOULA, La (WGNO) — The King and Queen of Ponchatoula’s Strawberry Festival is a high honor in Louisiana. When crowned, they take on the responsibility of being the pride and joy of the town, promoters for Louisiana’s Largest Free Festival, and the spokesman and spokeswomen of the culture of strawberry farming.

Art Thompson is the 2023 Strawberry King and says, “Without agriculture in this country, we are dependent on everybody else. When I was a little child, I remember the railway system used to package and ship strawberries on refrigerated rail cars up north. They went to Chicago and all over the place. That’s how we became famous for the strawberry.”

Kirstin Drozd is the 2023 Strawberry Queen and says, “I remember seeing queens and thinking how cool it would be to wear that crown one day. I have a lot to live up to. One of my great-grandfathers was a strawberry farmer. My grandpa was the mayor of Ponchatoula and was also a king in 2004; and my great aunt, who was his sister, her name was Patricia, she was the first strawberry queen.”

Thompson says the honor is special for him and his family. He is thrilled to be selected. His background is in a different branch of agriculture, in the lumber industry. He wants to see more young people take up an interest in agriculture to continue a legacy that strawberry farming is part of.

Enthusiastically Thompson says, “my wife makes an inherited strawberry cake that is out of this world. I tell everybody that that is the best dish she makes. She and I have been married 51 years, we both grew up in Ponchatoula. We had our 51st anniversary this year. I’m the 51st king and this is the 51st strawberry festival. These are a lot of important 51’s!”

Kirstin Drozed has quite a busy schedule and is a student at Southeastern Louisiana University and majors in marketing. She volunteers and also works hard to promote the best of her town saying, “We want people to come out here and see what we have to offer. It’s not just about the festival, but about the city as a whole. Here in Ponchatoula, you live, love and bleed strawberry. I’ve only been queen once, but I’ve been going to festivals since I was a little girl. It’s a game changer, being in that atmosphere. It’s the town’s charm. It definitely brings people together like a family. Ponchatoula strawberries are the sweetest best strawberries in the world!”

Catch the Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival, sponsored by WGNO on Friday, April 14 beginning at 12 p.m. The event runs through Sunday.

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