Everything 'berry' good at this year's Blackberry Festival

There was no mistaking it. This festival was all about blackberries.

Just as the name says, Bremerton's Blackberry Festival had a great mix of music, arts and crafts and food. And everywhere you looked, there were blackberries.

With a long line wrapped in and out of several nooks and crannies, the blackberry wine booth was extremely popular Sunday afternoon.

"We always do well," said Gene Pasek, winemaker and owner of Pasek Cellars in Mt. Vernon. "This is our fifteenth year at the Blackberry Festival and every year our sales grow."

Pasek is under contract to create blackberry wine just for the Blackberry Festival. This year he offered a medium sweet table wine and a port-style desert wine. Each bottle had a special 25th Anniversary Blackberry Festival label.

His winery makes blackberry wine several times a year, and it's the spring crop that he brings to Blackberry Festival.

"It's made with blackberries from Washington and Oregon," he said. "We need 50,000 to 60,000 pounds of them throughout the year."

The wine for the Bremerton Labor Day festival takes up to 10,000 pounds of blackberries and Pasek said the blackberry wine is always "100 percent blackberries and no grapes."

According to Carrie Rivers, the blackberry wine booth sponsored by the Bremerton Rotary, is the reason why the festival can take place year after year.

"We would not be able to afford to rent all the equipment necessary and set up everything g for the festival, if it weren't for the money we make from selling the wine," she said. "It's a lot of work, but it's a great event."

While Rivers isn't a Rotarian, she's been part of the festival for the past eight years, supporting her father and grandfather who both are in the Bremerton Rotary.

"They call me an honorary Rotarian," she said. "And I love being a part of this."

As she wrapped bottles of wine and bagged them, she reminded customers that every penny that is made from wine sales goes back into the festival, or into scholarships given by the Bremerton Rotary and for the work of the Bremerton Rotary Foundation.

Meanwhile Pasek said he looks forward to the Blackberry Festival every year.

"I don't do many of these fairs or festivals anymore," he said. "But I always love coming here. It's exciting to see these folks year after year," he said of the Rotarians. "They've become my friends."

On average they sell 200 cases of wine during the three days, he said. And his blackberry wines are available year-round at Fred Meyer, he added.

For those who didn't want wine, there was plenty else blackberry.

This was the third year for blackberry kettle corn, according to Judy Weakley, of Bremerton.

"We've had the 'World's Best Kettle Korn,' business for a number of years," Weakley said. "But it dawned on us a few years back that we needed to create a blackberry popcorn."

It took a few tries, but they came up with the perfect recipe that uses a blackberry concentrate added to the popcorn as it pops.They tried blackberry soda and a blackberry syrup before getting it just right.

And for anyone walking by their booth on the Bremerton Marina boardwalk, there were free samples.

"It's not something that everyone thinks they'll like," she said. "But once they try a sample, they find they do like it."

Organizers of the event who manned a t-shirt and souvenirs booth, said even some rain didn't keep the crowds away on Saturday.

"It's been busy almost constantly," said Kristina Younger with the Bremerton Rotary. "A little bit of rain doesn't keep people from coming to Blackberry Fest."

Younger say the most popular item were the baseball caps, which sold out on Sunday.

She said another popular item was the Barry Berry, a hand-sized stuffed blackberry toy designed to honor the 25th anniversary of Blackberry Festival.

"Barry Berry is selling well," she said. "He's a great little souvenir for the kids."

As for Younger, she loves Blackberry Festival.

"It's a great time and I love seeing everybody from town," she said.

Lines were also long at the Bremerton Kiwanis Club booth, where blackberry pie was the big seller.

Sunny Wheeler said the club had 650 pies on hand and expected to sell out. Customers could buy a whole pie to take home, or just a slice to eat right away.

"We contract with Costco to make our pies," Wheeler said. "And this is the only place you'll get a Costco blackberry pie because they make them just for us."

As of mid-day on Sunday the club had sold about half of the pies, but were already sold out of their blackberry scones.

Wheeler said the money earned from the booth at the festivals is reinvested in the community.

"We have Kiwanis groups for people of all ages," she said, noting that the high school-aged group, called the Key Club, at Bremerton High School had volunteers helping cut slices of pie for customers on Sunday.

And, when each full pie was sold, someone yelled out "whole pie," and the Key Club members sang a catchy tune.

No one's sure how many years the Kiwanis have been selling pies, Wheeler said. But the club's been around form 93 years.

"Almost from the beginning of Blackberry Festival, we've been a part of it," she said. "It's one way we fill our mission, to serve the community one child at a time."

As for any left-over pies, there's a plan, she said."We take them to the fire stations, the police station and to the food bank," Wheeler said.



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