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Blackberry Festival draws big crowds
Blue skies and a breeze welcomed guests from around the Kitsap Peninsula during the Bremerton Blackberry Festival last weekend. The festival, held every year over Labor Day weekend, boasted more than 100 vendors offering up goods from T-shirts to icy blackberry lemonade.
“It’s a good end of the season (event). It’s a good way to wrap up the summer,” said Roger Gay, a South Kitsap resident.
Gay took the Port Orchard ferry over to the Bremerton dock where he was dropped off right next to the festival. He recommended the blackberry cobbler for the first menu item of the day. After, Gay sat up in the beer garden, enjoying the water views and a beer.
“I like the food,” he said of the event. He took a swig of his beer and sat back in his chair.
“It’s nice and sunny. Decent weather,” he said. “Good way to bring the community together.”
Droves of people scattered throughout the event, covering every inch of sidewalk of the Louis Mentor Boardwalk, including steps leading down to the waterfront. In addition to tons of food options, entertainment by The Independents and other music acts took the stage to fill the air with everything from patriotic tunes to bluesy numbers.
The festival had something for everyone, including kids.
Sound Dive Center sent divers out into the sound to collect live species for examination for a touch tank event. Two 17-year-old divers brought back starfish, crabs, sea cucumbers and other sea life for viewing in a few kiddie pools. Children immediately swarmed the pools, reaching out to feel the live creatures.
“I enjoy watching their reaction,” said Kyle Wade, one of the divers. “It’s pretty rewarding.”
A representative from the center spoke about the variety of marine life, and informed the crowd about dive lessons offered through the center. The center takes part in the live touch tank event every year, Wade said. The sea life were all placed back into the sound once the tank session was over.
While some came out to play for the weekend, others were out to work during the event.
Dr. Robert L. Gross helped in the Kiwanis Club of Bremerton tent where proceeds benefit community youth programs, he said. The group purchased 700 specially ordered Blackberry pies from Costco. Gross said Costco does not make the pie for the public, only for the club each year at the Bremerton festival.
“We sell them all,” he said. “My favorite part would be the success we have in raising money by volunteers to give back to the community.”
At $25 a pop, Gross said the group would sell half as full pies. Club members shouted “whole pie” after each sale of a pie. The group also sold blackberry pie topped with vanilla ice cream, blackberry scones and blackberry or vanilla ice cream.
“It is the signature fruit of the Pacific Northwest,” he said of the blackberry.
Couple Vicki Bower and Doug Daman sat basking in the sunshine on the steps of the boardwalk taking in the views and smells of the festival. The two came down to Bremerton from Poulsbo for the day.
“There is a lot of good food here,” said Vicki Bower. “It’s making me hungry.” By early afternoon, she had already tried the blackberry ice cream, but said the smells were tempting her to go for some more grub.
“Those blackberry slugs … I think we’ll be heading up there next,” she said with a laugh.
Bower said she and her husband stopped in for their first time since their daughter was working a massage event through Everest College where she’s taking
massage therapy classes. As they took in the sunshine, the two said they hoped the weather would stretch out and last for just a few more months.
“Maybe we’ll have a nice September,” speculated Bower.
Daman added, “(I’m) hopeful for an extended summer.”
Elsewhere, Helen Peterson, of Prosser, and her friends PJ Chong and Frank Ramirez, came to Bremerton to take part in the Chief Select run.
“We were looking for a run that we could do,” said Peterson. “We were coming to Seattle for Bumbershoot and decided to come over here today, first, to do the run.”
The 5K and 10K runs were among the first events of the day. Peterson, who is recovering from a knee surgery, said she did “OK” in the run.
“I wasn’t really trying to compete,” she said. “Just get back into running.”
After the run, the trio walked through the festival looking at the crafts for sale and taking in a few treats. They tried a blackberry crepe, a raspberry slug and a clam gyro.
“Everything was great,” said Peterson. “I love the setting for this festival and there’s such great smells. Everybody is so friendly. We’re planning on coming back next year.”
Just a ways down the street, Danny Harvey, of Bremerton, stood in line with his wife and four children waiting for pony rides. It was the family’s first time at Blackberry Fest and they said they were having a great time.
“We just got here and had to take in the pony rides,” he said. “We have some friends who are going to meet us here and then we’re going to wander awhile and look at things.”
The kids, ages 9, 7, 3 and 11 months, who waiting patiently for their turns to ride, also planned on eating “something blackberry…probably ice cream,” their dad said.
At the Diaper Changing Booth, Pam Delatorre, of Bremerton, sat in the shade, waiting patiently for business.
The booth was the brainstorm of Pastor Kevin Clancey’s wife, Jill, of the Firehouse Church of Bremerton.
“They came here from California and their church there would do this at community festivals,” Delatorre said. “We decided to try it, just as a community service.”
With extra supplies on hand — in just case — there was a playpen and a changing table where parents of babies and toddlers could get out of the sun and change their children. And just across from the booth, a large garbage can.
“We’ve got everything we need right here,” she said. “And we also want to invite people to join us at our services.”
The church meets at 11 a.m. Sundays at the Sons of Norway, 1018 18th St., Bremerton.
The group hopes to expand to be at more Kitsap County festivals next year.
Next door at the face painting booth, Ella Podeszwa, 7, and her mother Melissa, of Auburn , were busy having their faces changed into beautiful butterflies, complete with glitter.
“My mother lives in Poulsbo,” said Melissa Podeszwa. “We wanted to find a festival to go to this weekend, so we decided to see what Blackberry Festival was all about. We’re having a great time.”
On the boardwalk, merchants such as John Glasser, displayed artwork. Glasser’s art could best be described as recycling old wine, gin and rum bottles into something useful.
“It’s just something I started doing at home as a hobby,” said Glasser, of Ryderwood, speaking of the glass wind chimes he makes. ‘Now it’s a hobby on steroids.”
The retired woodworker and cabinet maker uses glass specialty tools to cut bottles into wind chimes. His designs are his own, not copied from anything he’s seen elsewhere.
He gets the bottles from friends and a couple of bars in Centralia and Chehalis near his home.
“I call them my “Bottle Angels,” he said.
But his work is something more than just a way to pass the time.
"It keeps them out of the landfill," he said. "And it's making a statement. I'm trying to get people to think about the ways that they can reuse things and keep the environment clean."
His chimes sell from $40 to $100, and his work can be viewed at www.eco-chimes.vpweb.com.
Among those walking the festival on Saturday was Mayor Patty Lent. Lent said she thought more people were out earlier on Saturday to avoid the heat.
"It's suppose to be 85 degree in the shade later on today," she said. "The crowds are great. I think we're got more people that I can remember in past years."
Lent was looking forward to hearing Jr. Cadillac later on on Saturday.
"I'm heading home to get my husband and then we'll be back to hear the music," she said.