PONCHATOULA, La. (AP) — One of the state’s largest free events, second only to Mardi Gras, returns Friday to mark its 50th anniversary after the coronavirus pandemic shut it down for two years. The Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival will run through Sunday, bringing thousands of people to the tiny city north of New Orleans.

Kim Melancon, of the city’s Chamber of Commerce, said they’re looking forward to record-breaking crowds this weekend. She tells WVUE-TV that non-profit groups will be set up around the park selling strawberries, of course, as well as food, drinks, merchandise and memorabilia to raise money for various causes. The festival also includes entertainment by artists including Amanda Shaw, The Phunkey Monkeys, and Waylon Thibodeaux, a parade and strawberry eating contests.