VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — The 2023 Pungo Strawberry Festival has been canceled, marking the fourth year in a row that the event hasn't taken place.
In a Facebook post on Wednesday morning, festival organizers said that they weren't able to get the land-use agreements that they needed in time.
“We rely on these private landowners, and we are grateful for the years we were allowed to park on their property," Tammy Burroughs Hindle said, who serves on the festival's executive board. "We lost a big piece in 2014-15 and the city stepped up, car for car at the mounted police station. That worked out, but we’re at the mercy of landowners and we have to be in agreement to move forward, and that’s where we ended up.”
Burroughs Hindle said that because the board didn't want to downsize the size of the festival itself, the hurdle of land-use agreements meant there would be too little size for the festival they were traditionally accustomed to.
Organizers also said that they worked with Virginia Beach city leaders and business owners to try and come up with an alternate location, but things didn't pan out.
"We appreciate those with the City of Virginia Beach who have helped us over the many years. We could not put this festival together year after year without the city's support and sponsorship," the post reads.
"Thank you to all who have supported the Pungo Strawberry Festival for 37 years and will continue to do so going forward. We are committed to working with all stakeholders to see if we can revive the festival in the future."
Burroughs Hindle told 13News Now following the announcement, the cancellation is leading to conversations around what the circumstances might look like to successfully throw the festival in 2024 and beyond.
“It gives us an opportunity to relook at the logistics, and challenges and look at how maybe we can spread the festival to one end of the city to the other end," she says.
Before the pandemic began in 2020, the Strawberry Festival had been held in Pungo every year since 1984 on Memorial Day Weekend.
The festival is a celebration of the unofficial start of summer and the area's agricultural heritage of the sweet berry fruit.
In 2020 and 2021, festival organizers called it off due to safety and health concerns. In 2022, the festival was called off due to "unforeseen circumstances."
Burroughs Hindle added that from a "big picture" perspective, she wouldn't be opposed to expanding the festival to reimagine what it looks like, but that would "take some time."