By Telly Halkias
For a week and a half in the dog days of summer, Janet Boyd and many other denizens of Vermont’s Deerfield Valley will greet thousands of visitors with the now familiar refrain: “Do you love all things blue? The Blueberry Festival is the place for you!”
Indeed, in the relatively short period of a decade, the Deerfield Valley Blueberry Festival grew from an idea bantered about by Boyd, a local Realtor, and others wanting to do something positive for their communities, to a destination event she coordinates with the Southern Vermont Deerfield Valley Chamber of Commerce.
Boyd, who also owns Boyd Family Farm in Wilmington, said the growth has been steady and has made a ‘fruitful impact’ on the area.
“Unlike other such events which might last a day or two, the Blueberry Festival lasts more than a week with happenings spread out all up and down the Deerfield Valley,” she said. “We’ve grown from just locals the first year to almost 10,000 [attendees] for all events last year — most of them visitors.”
The question then looms: What associated with this little berry, with its limited harvest season, could possibly fill 10 days and attract so many people?
“We’re very creative up here along Route 100,” Boyd said, referring to the scenic byway that winds through the Deerfield Valley. “If you can fit blueberry into the theme, we can make an event of it for the festival.”
These Vermonters have done just that. The festival has been named a “Top 10 Summer Event” by the Vermont Chamber of Commerce and the state Legislature officially designated the valley “The Blueberry Capital of Vermont.”
Good ol’ fashioned family fun
The number of events comprising the festival is in flux year-to-year and consists of both larger and smaller offerings. At last count, for 2017, there are 25 scheduled, an average of about five a day.
“There’s something in the blueberry festival for everyone in the family, which probably also explains its growing popularity,” she said. “It sounds corny, but this is really just good ol’ fashioned family fun.”
Of the 25 events – all of which Boyd says are well attended – here is smattering:
July 28: Field of Blue. 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. at Boyd Family Farm to celebrate blueberry season. The pick-your-own fields are open daily. Walk through the “Blue Gates.” 125 East Dover Road, Wilmington.
July 29: Annual Blueberry Festival Parade 11 a.m, featuring local floats and marching bands 11:00 am. (Be seated along the parade route by 10:45 a.m.) West Dover.
July 29: Annual Blueberry BBQ. 11 a.m. After the parade follow the sweet smell of barbecue to the Dover Forge. Find loads of blueberry inspired goodness to please any palate. 183 Route 100, West Dover.
Aug. 1: Blueberry Pajama Party & Story Time 7 p.m. at Boyd Family Farm. Wear PJ’s. Great for ages under 8, with story time in the field. Entry is Free. The pick-your-own fields will be open until dark, at regular market prices. 125 East Dover Road, Wilmington.
Aug. 1: Fire on the Mountain 7:30 – 9 p.m. at Boyd Family Farm. Bonfire lighting, and all are invited to bring their instruments and come play and enjoy the sunset. Youths under 15 must be accompanied by an adult. Bring your own S’mores. Drug and alcohol free event. 125 East Dover Road, Wilmington.
Aug. 4: Village Chalk Walk & Street Fair 4 – 8 p.m.: Start at Honora Winery Tasting room for their Blueberry Beer tasting and wind through the village. Stop for the library programs, the Blue Eye Contest, and Blueberry Church Supper. Create sidewalk chalk art near the Spoonwood Cabin, the Jacksonville General Store, and the Whitingham Farmers Market at the Municipal Center. Cash prizes for best blueberry-themed chalk drawing. Live music. Jacksonville.
Therese Lounsbury, a freelance photographer from Wilmington who has helped organize the Blueberry Festival since its inception, said the breadth of choice is what makes the 10-day celebration attractive to visitors.
“It really is a valley-wide event,” Lounsbury said. “The fun is that every business finds some way to celebrate in the blue, whether it is a special blueberry sauce on a rack of ribs, blue-themed retail specials, or events like the Blueberry Jello Slip-n-Slide or the Block Party. It’s the variety of activities for any age.”
If you go …
What: 10th Annual Deerfield Valley Blueberry Festival (25 events)
When: Friday, July 28, through Sunday, Aug. 6. Time varies by event.
Where: All along Route 100 in the Deerfield Valley of Vermont, from West Dover to Whitingham with epicenter in Wilmington.
Parking: Yes, at various venues.
Admission: Many events are free. Donations or ticketed prices may prevail at some events.
Tip: Come for several days, stay locally, and take in a number of events to get the full flavor of the festival.
Info: Call 802-464-8092 or go online to vermontblueberry.com