Harry Jaquillard has eaten a lot of strawberry shortcake.
It’s his favorite food to consume during the annual Strawberry Festival, a family-friendly carnival and everything-strawberry charity event hosted by the Mattituck Lions Club each Father’s Day weekend.
But more than the rides, games and even the strawberry shortcake, volunteering is Mr. Jaquillard’s favorite thing to do at the festival — so much so that he’s volunteered longer than any other club member. This year marks the festival’s 62nd anniversary and Mr. Jaquillard has pitched in for the last 42 years.
Like most volunteers, his fondest festival memories include hulling strawberries.
“Meeting all my friends and their wives and children on Hulling Night was fun,” he recalled in an interview this week. “The children love the festival — riding the rides and enjoying the strawberries. And everything goes right to charity.”
When asked how he felt about being the club’s longest-serving volunteer, Mr. Jaquillard, an 87-year-old Founders Village resident, simply said he was “honored.”
“I just enjoy the camaraderie,” he said.
Mr. Jaquillard’s tenure with the Lions Club started after he moved to Mattituck from Nassau County with his wife, Arlene, in 1971. They opened a florist and garden shop on Main Road a year later. His friend, Mike Winiarz, who owned a liquor store across the street, invited him to join the club, which Mr. Jaquillard did in 1974.
Each year, a different member takes the lead in organizing the Strawberry Festival — a task Mr. Jaquillard said he took on around the time he served as president, between 1979 and 1980.
“It wasn’t stressful because I had a lot of help, but we didn’t make as much money as we had hoped because it rained,” he recalled.
Arlene Jaquillard, a longtime member of the East End Lions Club and festival volunteer, said she remembers when the festival was a much smaller affair: there were no vendors and all the strawberry shortcakes were baked in the high school cafeteria. There was also a lot more running around, since volunteers didn’t have the luxury of using golf carts as they do today.
“It’s a lot of work and takes the volunteers away from their families, but, in the end we all feel that it’s worth it,” she said.
Club member Phil Centonze said that while the festival has grown in popularity over the years, he believes the fact that proceeds benefit charities motivates community members to continue participating in the local tradition.
“Removing the stems, cleaning and the rest of the process — I don’t know of any other community on Long Island where people could just walk from their home to a field with neighbors and friends to help an organization like ours put on this kind of festival for charity,” he said. “Harry is one of the most dedicated people I’ve ever met in my life. To serve the community that you live in and love without asking for a pat on the back — that’s typical of him and for most of our members.”
Peter Kren, who is the club’s second longest-serving volunteer, became the festival’s treasurer about 10 years ago. Shortly afterward, Mr. Jaquillard needed to scale back his workload and became Mr. Kren’s assistant in collecting money during the event.
Mr. Kren, who joined the club in 1977, described him as a “hard worker.”
“He’s a great guy — he does anything he’s asked to do and jumps right in when needed,” Mr. Kren said, adding that volunteers like Mr. Jaquillard have helped the club raise more than $1 million for charity over the last 60 years.
While health reasons have kept him from taking on any volunteer tasks this year, Mr. Jaquillard said that even as a spectator he’ll chip in to make the event a success.
“I’m going to help my wife serve coffee in the tent,” he said. “I wish I could do more. It’s just a part of getting old.”
Mr. Kren said he and others hope Mr. Jaquillard is up for this year’s event, especially since they appreciate all he’s done to make the festival a success.
“Everyone will be happy to see him,” Mr. Kren said.
Top photo caption: Harry Jaquillard has been a Strawberry Festival volunteer since he joined the Mattituck Lions Club in 1974. (Credit: Jen Nuzzo)