Last year, they canceled most festivals due to COVID and this year, wildfires, like the Backbone, drove many tourists away.

But over Labor Day, the first weekend full of activities, the crowds returned to Pine-Strawberry.

The annual Labor Day Craft Festival was the centerpiece of the weekend for many locals and visitors. At least 265 of them started their morning at the Mountain Village Foundation (MVF) pancake breakfast.

“We served 265 breakfasts over the two days, taking in almost exactly the same amount of revenue between breakfast sales and donations that we generated during the Labor Day festival two years ago, the last time our group was able to hold this popular event,” said MVF President Chuck Ackerman.

As usual, one highlight of the day was the posting of colors by the Boy Scouts, who led attendees in the Pledge of Allegiance before the breakfast. The Scouts stayed to help customers and clean tables.

“They were inspiring both days,” said Ackerman. “I love to see our youth in action.”

Proceeds from the pancake breakfast will help MVF provide Christmas gifts for children whose families need some extra help at the holidays, as well as support local organizations that serve children, families and senior citizens in Pine-Strawberry.

A town full of guests made for busy restaurants and loads of traffic.

“It went well for us,” said Shannon Ronning, manager of the Early Bird. “We had lots of customers. Most were very nice and patient knowing we were short staffed.”

It was a sentiment echoed by most businesses: short staffed, but with lots of happy and grateful customers.

“People were happy to be able to sit on the patio,” said Tamara Morken, the owner of THAT Brewery and Pub. “Lots of visitors and locals. We almost sold out of our smokehouse meats.”

In Strawberry, PieBar owner Kim Brennan wasn’t sure what to expect.

“PieBar staff were on their game. They kept up with extra large orders and got empanadas in hands fast. Thanks for a good time, Strawberry,” she added.

The Strawberry Inn owner, Amber Eilers, reported being full to the brim with lots of happy families who gathered at the inn’s campfire.

With all these people in town, you would assume that Pine-Strawberry Fire Department would be flooded with calls, but there were few problems, said Pine-Strawberry Fire Department Capt. Robert McCormick. For such a busy weekend the crew was called out 10 times and only two resulted in significant treatment, he said.

“It was a busy weekend, but not a slammed weekend,” McCormick said, who has been with PSFD for more than 25 years. “Surprisingly, with all the people we were happy about not being overly busy.”

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