Berkshire Blueberry & Book Festival Keeps on Growing
Berkshire is a small community, but that doesn’t mean it can’t do big things. Its Blueberry and Book Festival—the fourth annual celebrated on Saturday, July 21, 2018—keeps on growing bigger each year, with more vendors, more activities, more food and more antique cars.
The festival began bright and early with a delicious blueberry pancakes, topped with Berkshire maple syrup donated by SweeTree Maple Products made and served by library volunteers. Soon after that wrapped up, the Berkshire Fire Company’s barbecue chicken dinners were ready for sale to hungry festival goers. Other food vendors provided other choices, but of more interest was the significant selection of blueberry this and blueberry that, partly as result of the Blueberry Bake-Off and partly from the Richford Church Ladies’ bake sale. And, of course, you could buy quarts of just plain blueberries from Richford Hill Farm and Hillberry Farm.
The Bake-off was run by volunteers from the Berkshire First Congregational Church, proceeds going to the Helping Hands Food Pantry. Judging was done by a representative of Cornell Cooperative Extension experienced in judging at local fairs.
“It is gratifying to discover all the amazing talent in our local area,” commented one festival patron, with others making similar observations as they perused the art work on display in Berkshire’s Community Hall. Both the east and west walls were filled with painting and drawing and a large table displayed three-dimensional art work created by 18 different artists. The juried winner of a medal and a crisp $50 bill went to Greg Chianis of Newark Valley with his black and white photograph titled “Old Soul.” The people’s choice award, also a medal and $50, went to Lorraine Slate of Berkshire for her acrylic titled “Stand Off.” The Catatonk Woodcarvers also demonstrated their skills in the fire station.
Some of that local talent was offered in the form of entertainment. The festival provided two venues for its musicians: on the recently refinished stage in the Community Hall and in the fire station. Two bands performed (The Robert Back Band and Thee KinFolk), along with Valley Harmony (men’s a cappella from Berkshire and Nichols), flutist and soprano sax player Ed Nizalowski (Berkshire), pianist Rhonda Moulton (Berkshire), soprano Farrah Fiacco (Newark Valley, who also has been Miss Blueberry for the past several years), harpist Melissa Collins (Owego), and vocalist and guitarist Andy G. Fagan (Waverly).
Other local talents included the writers who offered their books for sale and who signed the books they sold. After all, the event is a fundraiser for the Berkshire Free Library, which serves both Berkshire and Richford to the north, thus the Berkshire Blueberry and Book Festival. New authors this year included Karen Bernardo, retired Director of the Coburn Free Library in Owego; Eileen Morock, co-publisher of the Moonlighter from Newark Valley; Linda Crowley from Cincinatus; Linda Spielman from Dryden, an environmental educator and leading expert in animal tracking; Jaimee Wriston Colbert, professor of creative writing at Binghamton University; and Daniel Jude Miller, children’s book writer and illustrator, Binghamton. Returning was Berkshire native and horror novelist Pamela Morris. Also, books were for sale by Ray Hunt & Maurice Stoughton of Berkshire, by Mary Jordan also of Berkshire, and by the late Jerry Marsh. Two books by Richford author Charles Yaple were also offered in a raffle basket.
The vintage car and truck show more than doubled in size this year, with 20 cars displayed. Three people’s choice trophies were offered this year to spurn interest, both with car owners and festival attendees. The big hits in the show—winning the first place trophy—was an orange 1956 Ford Thunderbird. The second place trophy was awarded to a 1969 Ford Mustang and third went to a 1979 Chevy Camaro. Festival organizers are looking for ways to create even more interest in this aspect of the festival.
Festival organizers worked to provide more activities for young people this year in the Kids’ Tent. Children’s writer and illustrator Daniel Jude Miller, author if Everybody Wake Up!, spoke to children about being a writer and illustrator of children’s books. There was a whole array of games, including a scavenger hunt, and other activities for the younger set include, of course, face painting. The Game Truck of Central New York also graced the scene for the enjoyment of kids of all ages. There were also free children’s books for the taking provided by the East Berkshire Methodist Church and many donation to the library.
Over two dozen vendors offered the wares for sale and local businesses and organizations provided 55 baskets and/or other items for the raffle. Finally the Berkshire History Museum was open to festival patrons and Bob Connelly spoke on antique watches and clocks before offering antique appraisals.