FORESTVILLE - For those who love strawberries, wine and a good day out with the family, the Strawberry Festival at Merritt Winery on King Road is an event to check out this weekend. Visitors this weekend will also have a chance to support an anti-bullying campaign started by a former heavyweight contender.
Guest "Baby" Joe Mesi will be at the event promoting his Champs Against Bullying campaign. He will be signing memorabilia and photographs. Proceeds from the event will be donated to Champs Against Bullying.
Mesi wants to bring awareness to bullying and to educate parents and students about the topic. Mesi was bullied when he was younger and thinks hearing his story has impact on others.
Former heavyweight boxing top-ranked contender “Baby” Joe Mesi will be signing autographs at the Strawberry Festival this weekend at Merritt Winery.
"Bullying is a hot topic right now. I'm a former heavyweight contender and to hear from me, a former boxing contender, yes I was bullied as a child," Mesi said.
With the organization, Mesi wants to address children and their parents.
He wants to raise awareness and provide education about bullying and prevention of bullying. Bullying is happening and its progressing, Mesi said.
"Bullying is taking new formats with the internet and social media. A lot of that is anonymous," Mesi said.
Mesi wants to teach children to not stand by. Students should stand up if they see bullying and it's OK to say something. Mesi also wants to teach parents to look for the warning signs of bullying in their own children as well as others.
"Everybody is a champion in his or her own way," Mesi said. "It's OK to be that person who steps up and be the difference."
Although Mesi is a former boxer, he does not resort to violence for any situation and encourages others to do the same.
"No, it's not OK but (bullying) happens to everyone," Mesi said. "Yes I am a fighter but that's not how I resort to resolve problems."
Mesi has been coming to the Strawberry Festival for multiple years. Jason Merritt of Merritt Winery invited him to be the guest this year with proceeds going to Mesi's anti-bullying organization.
"Merritt Winery is a huge asset to our community. They're always very mindful to our community and they do it in a fun way. (Strawberry Festival) is a great family event. I'm bringing my kids one day," Mesi said.
"Bullying is such on the forefront now," Mike Ferguson, director of marketing and promotions for Merritt Winery, said. "This will help to make people aware of bulling and how it affects their kids."
In addition to autographs being signed by Mesi, Merritt Winery will have a special bottle of Bella Rosa with a special label featuring Mesi for purchase. A silent auction will also be held with sports memorabilia from the Buffalo Sabres, Patrick Kaleta, Jim Kelly and more, in addition to other gift certificates from local businesses. Ferguson said all auction items will start at affordable prices.
Thirteen vendors and live music will be available throughout the weekend. On-site parking is free. Ferguson said that a donation is encouraged and local restaurant coupons will be given in exchange. The Sheridan Fire Department will also have demonstrations for children and there will be a bounce house and face painting for kids as well.
"We try to keep everything as family friendly as possible," Ferguson said.
Gina V and the Barncats, Black Widow and Sean Patrick McGraw will perform on Saturday and Us and Fallen Union will perform on Sunday. The event will run from 12 to 10 p.m. on Saturday and 12 to 6 p.m. on Sunday. The Strawberry Festival is a great way to kick off summer, Ferguson said, and it's a great way to support a good cause.
"It's a lot of fun, a great way to contribute to this very important cause. Every one in their lifetime has been bullied. We all know someone who has been touched by bullying," Mesi said.
For more information on Champs Against Bullying, visit champsagainstbullying.com. For a complete schedule of the Strawberry Festival, visit merrittestatewinery.com.
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