Each June, the North Carolina Blueberry Festival is held in the tiny town of Burgaw and, each year, the event’s organizers estimate the community’s population jumps from 4,000 to upwards of 30,000. Now I’m no expert at judging crowd sizes but, given the packed in shoulder-to-shoulder nature of yesterday’s fair, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear this year’s numbers set at closer to 100,000. Folks crammed in to Courthouse Square to celebrate all things blueberry and, if one looked closely, one could see lots of fingers, tongues and teeth stained blue.
The first cultivated blueberry production began in Burgaw’s Pender County in the 1930s and today, the county ranks second in blueberry production for the state. On offer at the festival were flats of blueberries ($20 for non-organic, $25 for organic); blueberry lemonade; blueberry wine; blueberry fritters; blueberry shortcake; blueberry ice cream; blueberry preserves; and blueberry bread. If there was a recipe that could be converted to use blueberries, I have no doubt that some vendor on site was offering the resulting delectable for sale. Just in case any option was missed, there was also a recipe contest where folks could submit yet another idea.
The day also featured a 5K Run/Walk and the Tour de Blueberry Ride, hosted by the Cape Fear Cyclists. In the latter event, experienced riders were offered routes of 33 and 63 miles while newbies could have their fun along shorter routes of 9, 13 and 21 miles.
Vintage cars and trucks were lined up along the streets of the downtown where they were judged by an independent panel of experts. Once one moved past these, it was on to the booths of fine – and not so fine crafters – who were selling wares such as pine needle baskets, ceramic spoon rests, tie-dyed shirts, blown-glass bowls, and wooden pull toys. Food vendors were hawking fried seafood to fried dough. Dozens upon dozens of non-profits, civic groups and sundry other organizations were also in place including the Red Cross and Master Gardeners; a beekeepers’ association; a bow hunters’ association; a group focused on women’s health and another group working to save the rain forests.
The entertainment stage was set adjacent to the beer and wine tents and lots of folks copped a squat to listen to the Gospel Lites; Steve Owens and Summertime; Spare Change; and the Band of Oz. Older folks also wandered the aisles at the antique show and sale while tots rode a kid-sized train, bounced in the bouncy tents, and tried their best to ring the bell with the strongman hammer.
Temps were in the high 80s/low 90s so the shade provided by the square’s trees was much appreciated. A delight-filled day!
Click on the first image below to enter the gallery and view enlargements. All photos by Donna Hailson.
“You ought to have seen what I saw on my way
To the village, through Mortenson’s pasture to-day;
Blueberries as big as the end of your thumb,
Real sky-blue, and heavy, and ready to drum
In the cavernous pail of the first one to come!”
– From Robert Frost’s “Blueberries”