This weekend marks the end of the 6th Annual Deerfield Valley Blueberry Festival which began on July 26, 2013. From Friday, July 26 through this Saturday, August 3, Wilmington, Vermont, and the surrounding towns of Dover, Jacksonville, Whitingham, Searsburg and Marlboro have all participated with blueberry-themed events and activities like blueberry bingo at Masonic Temple (so popular this year it became standing-room blueberry bingo), blueberry story time at the local bookstore, Bartleby’s Books, and an opening ceremony that included gallons of blueberry Jello to for an enormous slip and slide party.
But, it’s not over yet.
Saturday morning kicks off with a blueberry pancake breakfast at the Jacksonville Community Church followed by the “Blue Eye Contest” at the Honara Winery Tasting Room in Jacksonville on Route 112 (“no colored contacts allowed!”). Later in the day, South Main Street in Wilmington will be shut down for a Blueberry Block Party starting at 5:00 pm with a blueberry pie eating contest at 6.
The first thing you should know about these towns, to get a sense of the event itself, is they may be small in size, but when it comes to community spirit, they are huge. The Blueberry Festival certainly celebrates our favorite blue berry, but it also celebrates the tightly-knit fabric of small rural communities; how they are woven together through events like this one.
At the center of the Blueberry Festival is Janet Boyd of Boyd Family Farm in Wilmington. She moved to this area from New Jersey nearly 40 years ago. As fifth generation farmers, she and her husband have continued his family business, now alongside their own kids and friends. The operation has changed greatly since she first started, when they decided to go from an animal- to a horticulture-based farm. As Janet says it, “The only thing that’s the same about our business is the dirt we walk on.”
What Janet loves so much about this area is how different it is from so many other parts of the world. Road rage? Not a problem here. For Janet, her home in Vermont is welcoming, soothing, and calm. The landscape during the summer is lush and green with inviting lakes, rivers, brooks and of course mountains.
One father from New York who brought his children to her farm this past week to pick blueberries told her afterwards that until that moment at Boyd Farm, he never had the type of experience where he could lay in the grass, shut his eyes, and listen his children run and play in the grass and bushes nearby. Any other public place he’d been, he needed to be plugged in, on alert.
In addition to helping on the family farm, Janet also runs Boyd Real Estate. In fact, as she and I were chatting, she introduced me to the proud new owner of a turkey farm down the road when he stopped by to pick up the keys. Forget about business mergers and acquisitions, in this neck of the woods, people are becoming turkey farmers. There’s something very comforting about that notion.
As Janet filled me in on all the blueberry activities, what really struck me were the people that she mentioned and how they all pull together. (This area has had struggles, like in 2011 when Irene devastated the town.) For instance, Jim, the owner of North Star Bowl & Mini Golf, makes all the gallons of blueberry Jello for the young and young at heart to slip on slide on. The list goes on and includes a very large Festival Committee, shop merchants, the Chamber.
After my visit with Janet and walk through the blueberry piece, I headed off to lunch at Dot’s of Dover for a little lunch.
Before I sat down, one of the waitresses said, “Sit wherever you feel comfortable.” I chose the window seat. But after having lunch, I realized the best seat in the house is at the counter.
After lunch, I headed to the East Dover General Store. The new owners just opened and few months ago. The store serves the local community, within about a 5 mile radius. Word spread that the blueberry muffins were tasty!
My car was low on gas and the clouds started to roll in, so I headed back to Wilmington and poke around some shops. Janet told me to go see Jim McGrath who recently painted and sold a portrait of “Blueberry Girl” that is on display through the end of the festival.
At that point, I started dodging raindrops, but made a few more stops before I started on my journey home.
To plan your visit from where to stay and what to do, visit Mount Snow Valley Chamber of Commerce.