Chincoteague Kicks off Pony Week with Blueberry Festival
Jul 18, 2012 06:52PM
● By Anonymous
Later this month, the island of Chincoteague will watch the ponies swim for the 87th time, but first, residents and visitors will gather to treat themselves to some of the finest blueberries around when the Chincoteague Center hosts the 25th Annual Chincoteague Island Blueberry Festival.
“This is the opening act for the pony swimming week, so it’s the busiest week of the year on Chincoteague,” says event coordinator Sam Serio. “The Blueberry Festival offers a completely different contrasting event to the pony swim but they work hand-in-glove together.”
So how, amidst such a renowned tradition like pony swimming, does a Blueberry Festival find its place in Chincoteague?
“It’s kind of an interesting story,” says Serio. “It was started by a group of ladies who wanted to do a festival in Chincoteague, and originally they were thinking of putting on a strawberry festival, but strawberries couldn’t hold up under the heat, so they went to blueberries.” Serio was involved as an exhibitor until about eight years ago, when the women decided to cease the tradition. “Long story short, I took over,” says Serio. Having grown from 600–700 attendees 10 years ago to 7,000 last year, the event has taken on recognition of its own, with non-stop music, fine arts and crafts, carefully selected food vendors, kid-friendly activities, and of course, all the blueberry goodness you can handle.
“Almost anything you can think of with blueberries will be there,” says Serio. “Fresh, gourmet blueberries—and they are the biggest blueberries you’ve ever seen—old-fashioned blueberry shortcake made with the gourmet blueberries…the Pepper Jack Grill makes blueberry pancakes for breakfast, there are blueberry slushies and blueberry Italian ice…the local Island Creamery makes their own ice cream fresh including a special gourmet blueberry ice cream just for the event…and we have the Sugarbakers bakery who make what they call ‘the ultimate blueberry pie,’ and it is amazing.” In addition to all the berry treats, the Pepper Jack Grill will offer a variety of non-fair fare. “[They] are out of the Baltimore area and they make some of the finest food I’ve ever seen,” says Serio.
If that doesn’t leave your mouth watering, (though we can’t imagine it wouldn’t) it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the festival. “It’s the largest fine arts and crafts show on the Eastern Shore,” says Serio, and it encompasses the entire Chincoteague Center grounds—inside, and out.
In addition to a full, impressive lineup of live music featuring, Ron Cole and Wayne Young, Hemlock Hollow, Moonstruck Music, and Greg Shupe and Men with Issues, Serio says the festival is excited to welcome back a crowd favorite, the Piped Piper. “We’re thrilled that this year a gentleman called the Piped Piper will be back with us,” says Serio. “He’s in his late 70s and he plays multiple brass instruments, at the same time, with a beat box. It’s like a little one-man orchestra—he’s got a great personality and the whole bit.” Visitors can catch the Piped Piper toward the front of the Center, near the food, and a “main stage” will simultaneously feature music all day long. “Towards the end of the day the musicians that played during the day will collectively jam for about 20 minutes… it’s really funny to see.”
The Blueberry Festival is family-friendly, but not for families only.
“There’s just something for everyone…the Festival hosts some of the finest artists—last year they came from 13 different states, and of course, we have a good representation of local and regional artists as well, so if you’re into good art or high quality crafts, this would be a good thing to come to,” says Serio. “And we do have some kids activities like pony rides and face painting; so there is really something for every family member to enjoy.”
And for those visitors who are serious about their blueberry consumption and want to guarantee they’re able to take a stock of gourmet blueberries home, Serio says you should call ahead and reserve your berries in advance.
“Many people order ten to 12 slats of these blueberries and freeze them for the year.”
The three-day festival will run Friday, Saturday and Sunday July 20-22 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Coupons for admission tickets, blueberry-related recipes and other details can be found online at www.chincoteagueblueberryfestival.com. One-day adult tickets are $10, two-day tickets are $8 and three-day passes are $10. Kids under 12 are $1. To preorder blueberries, call 757-336-3712.