An annual summer gathering began to unfold with the smell of chicken barbecue in the air as the dew slipped away from the grass. The small town was a buzz with activity that morning, as baskets of blueberries lined the tables, deliveries of prize-worthy baked goods were donated and local authors pulled out their latest creations for display and signing. Free children’s books were waiting for the touch of little hands and a room full of paperback books were ready to be chosen. This was the start of the 5th annual Blueberry and Book Festival.
It was a beautiful, warm morning, a light breeze swaying the tent flaps of vendor canopies. Classic cars of various styles and eras rolled in early, drivers’ eager to share their summer rides with locals. A steady crowd moved quickly through the Fire Station line to taste the highly praised blueberry pancakes, thanks to donated Richford Hill Farm blueberries and Sweetrees maple syrup.
As the temperatures rose through the morning, orders of homemade blueberry cheesecake ice cream grew increasingly popular under the tent of Jones’ Humdinger ice cream shop. The sweetness of blueberry cotton candy left many children with blue lips, while others patiently waited their turn to get their face painted for the occasion.
By late morning, the Bake-Off winners were announced: Best in Show and 1st place in the Blueberry Pie category went to Krista Bailey, with Janice Merrill taking 2nd place with her unique blueberry basil and goat cheese tart. In the Muffins and Coffee Cake area, 1st place went to Lisa Grant, who made blueberry coffee cakes, and 2nd place winner, Beth Albrecht, brought in chocolate blueberry cream cheese muffins. Finally, the Baked Desserts. The 1st place blueberry sugar cookie roll was entered by Cecelia Whitney, 2nd was Jackie Jewett’s blueberry delight, and Connie Turk’s blueberry pound cake was 3rd.
The Bake-Off, sponsored by the First Congregational Church in Berkshire, was able to donate $112 to the Helping Hands Food Pantry.
Many styles of music graced the event, on the Community Hall stage and in the Fire Station bay. Ed Nizalowski began the entertainment in the Fire Station with his soprano sax and flute, Sister Moon followed, then Farrah Fiacco (Miss Blueberry) sang. Later, Blind Boys Blues Band and Andy G. Fagan kept the bay area entertained.
On the Community Hall stage a number of first time festival entertainers included Remember When (women’s a cappella quartet), Craig Russell (guitar and vocals), and Two of a Kind. Back by popular demand was a local favorite, Valley Harmony, and a woodwind / piano group with Laurie Holdridge, Anne Austin, and Aric Phinney.
The soft sound of the harp, by Melissa Collins, was enchanting while viewing local art displayed around the Community Hall. Festival participants found it difficult to narrow down a single people’s choice vote with such variety of art on display. Art awards went to Charles Beaudoin’s carved masterpiece “Old Mill”, for people’s choice and Joan Deuel’s quilted artwork, “Winter Moon”, for the juried selection.
Classic car trophies went to Larry and Janice Stewart (1st) with their 1970 Chevy Chevelle SS, Shawn Davis (2nd) with his 1947 John Deere tractor, and Albert Wildrick (3rd) with his 1965 Chevy Impala SS. In the library, history buffs also visited with antique expert Bob Connelly and perused the many artifacts upstairs in the Berkshire History Museum.
More than 80 volunteers from two towns offered their time and talents. Town supervisors from Berkshire, Keith Flesher, and Richford, Charlie Davis, teamed up to announce raffle winners just prior to the closing of the event. It was a very warm, enjoyable summer day for a small town social gathering and sharing of ideas to celebrate our local community.