Lakes and strawberries, two of Washington County’s premiere summer attractions, kick off a string of community celebrations that will last into September.

The first, Lake Fest in Forest Lake, features an observance of the city’s schools, a fishing tournament, Arts in the Park and a water ski show. Those activities and numerous others begin Friday, May 31, and continue through June 6.

This is the third year for Lake Fest, created in 2011 for what organizers hoped would evolve as a tradition to celebrate Forest Lake’s history and culture. “I think it definitely has the makings of a tradition,” said Renae Reedy, the city’s parks director.

Coming soon after Lake Fest will be strawberry festivals in Cottage Grove and Afton. The event in Cottage Grove, which runs June 13-17 in Kingston Park, recalls strawberry patches that dotted the city long ago. In Afton, the city’s strawberry fields dating to the 1800s will be featured in history displays and celebrated at a dinner during the two-day event, which begins June 22.

“Never a disappointment,” is how volunteer Sheila Nitz described the Cottage Grove festival, which doesn’t always have strawberries depending on weather, but puts emphasis on bringing residents together to celebrate their city.

All cities in Washington County that have summer festivals strive to reflect their individual personalities or at least stand apart from their neighbors. Bayport, for example, has its Deep Blues Festival on June 21-23. Lake Elmo’s Huff N’ Puff Days in August keeps participants moving with softball, volleyball, golf and similar activities.

Stillwater, meanwhile, will go another summer without a major festival after Lumberjack Days got chopped down in a financial scandal. In response, the City Council declared a moratorium on community festivals until a consensus can be reached on new ideas.

In Woodbury, the county’s largest city, the Woodbury Days celebration that includes fireworks will take place in August.

Dozens of festivals will be held in east-metro cities this summer, including big draws such as Twin Cities Jazz Festival and Irish Fair of Minnesota, both held in St. Paul. On the borders of Washington County, White Bear Lake has Market Fest over several weekends in June and July, Hastings has Rivertown Days and Hudson, Wis., has Booster Days.