Shawangunk Mountain Wild Blueberry & Huckleberry Festival this Saturday

Blueberry pie (photo by Seth Waite)

When it comes to enjoying the fruits of the season, it doesn’t get much better than the blueberry. Loaded with fiber, vitamin C, calcium, antioxidants and energy-promoting manganese, it’s found on Top Ten lists of “most nutritious foods” so often that you’d think that the violet-blue berry had its own press agent. It doesn’t, of course, but it is having a party thrown in its honor on Saturday, August 11, when Ellenville hosts the 12th annual Shawangunk Mountain Wild Blueberry & Huckleberry Festival from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The huckleberry, you say? Where does that lesser-known but equally nutritious relation of the blueberry come into the picture here?

“Mother Blueberry” (also known as Dianne E. Turner of the Ellenville/Wawarsing Chamber of Commerce, which is sponsoring the Festival), says that the huckleberry grows wild on the mountains in the area, but it won’t actually make an appearance at the Festival, since it’s not readily available commercially. The huckleberry gets to share billing in the name of the Festival, she says, because of a suggestion made 12 years ago by John Adams and Marc Fried: two locals who went to the Chamber of Commerce and suggested renaming the Festival formerly known as Revisit Ellenville Day (and later as the Harvest Music Festival) to reflect the role of the huckleberry in the history of the region.

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In The Huckleberry Pickers: A Raucous History of the Shawangunk Mountains, Fried provides an accounting of “the berry pickers” who once lived on the mountaintops of the Shawangunks near Ellenville: a northern Appalachian subculture of the region whose members were tied to each other by kinship and community, and whose way of life was centered around picking and trading the wild huckleberry. It’s the blueberry, though, that will be the starring attraction in Ellenville on Saturday.

The festivities begin with a blueberry pancake breakfast served up by Pioneer Engine Company #1 from 7:30 to 11 a.m. at Norbury Hall on Center Street. The breakfast is a fundraiser for the fire department, and costs $6 for adults, free for kids under age 5. Other blueberry-related events of the day include the annual pie-judging contest for homemade blueberry pies, which must be brought to the pie tent by 12 noon. There’s a limit of one entry per person, and all pies must contain at least 50 percent blueberries. Cream fillings or toppings are not allowed, per Health Department regulations. Ribbons will be awarded to the top three entries, with a Grand Prize as yet unnamed to be awarded as well.

For those wishing to buy rather than bake, the Chamber of Commerce will be selling blueberry pies made with locally grown berries, made by Cohen’s Bakery in Ellenville. More than 200 vendors will be present, offering a wide variety of goods and wares, berry-related and otherwise. “We’ll have all kinds of foods here,” says Mother Blueberry. “You can eat your way from one end of this Festival to the other.”

Live music by the Carl Richards Band, Third Degree and Folkloric with Bob Lusk will resonate from two stages, and Marc Fried will be on hand to autograph copies of his book about the huckleberry pickers in the region’s past. Mother Blueberry says that they’re enthusiastic about the new kids’ area this year, too, which will be set apart in its own section at the Festival with five interactive inflatables: the Wizzer, the Giant Slide, the Carousel, the Wild One and the Speed Racer. A bracelet good for all-day admission to those attractions will be sold, or tickets for each can be purchased individually. Macaroni the Clown will be back this year, along with face-painting and balloons, and there’ll be a Climb on Us Rock Wall suitable for kids and adults alike.

The 12th annual Shawangunk Mountain Wild Blueberry & Huckleberry Festival takes place on Saturday, August 11 in Ellenville from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. rain or shine at Canal Street and Liberty Square. The Blueberry Pancake Breakfast ($6, free for kids under age 5) runs from 7:30 to 11 a.m. at Norbury Hall on Center Street. There will be a pie-judging contest (bring pies by noon, no cream fillings) and pies for sale; live music, book-signing, and over 200 vendors offering wares and food; and a kids’ area with giant inflatables, a clown and face-painting. Off-street parking is free. For more information, call the Chamber of Commerce at (845) 647-4620, e-mail info@ewcoc.com or visit www.ewcoc.com/pages/ellenvillewawarsingchamberofcommercefestivals.aspx.

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