PONCHATOULA, La. (WGNO) — The Ponchtoula Strawberry Festival is here, and that means it’s time to meet this year’s Strawberry Blossom!

It’s a royal title for a woman doing her part to make her community sweet, and this year’s winner is none other than Mary Howes, the wife and mother of two former Strawberry Kings.

“When they tell you they want you to be royalty, they mean it,” Howe tells WGNO’s Kenny Lopez. “The strawberry blossom is the more mature ladies.”

Although she’s not a Ponchatoula native, Howes has called the Strawberry Capital of the Word home for nearly 40 years. And through the years, Howes’ connection to the Strawberry Fest has also blossomed.

“We had a fruit stand a mile from our house and my husband worked the fields, grew product, and I sold it,” Howes added. “I packed strawberries for my father-in-law, and that was a hoot because I really didn’t know what I was doing.”

As she walks through the fields of ruby red, the Strawberry Blossom will forever remember her husband, Wayne, who passed in 2011. The strawberries he grew were food for the soul, Howes says.

“My husband had the sweetest strawberries around, I have yet to find one that’s sweeter than the ones he grew.”

In 2008, Wayne was the Strawberry Fest King, and six years later, her son Richard was the 2014 King. It was the legacy her family has created at the Strawberry Fest that gave Howes the juice she needs to be the best Blossom.

“Basically I hope I can make people realize what the farmers are going through and how hard it is.”

You can catch the Ponchatoula Strawberry Fest, sponsored by WGNO on Friday, April 14 beginning at 12 p.m. The event runs through Sunday.

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