BREMERTON — Three days of pie, entertainment, street art and slugs kicked off on Sept. 2 as the Bremerton Blackberry Festival returned for its 28th year.
Yes, that’s correct — slugs. For those visiting the festival for the first time, eating a slug is a rite of passage for any Labor Day Weekend visit to the Bremerton area.
Don’t worry, they’re delicious — because this slug is actually a pastry filled with blackberry jam and covered with powered sugar.
They have been sold by the Bremerton Lions Club each and every year and are always one of the biggest hits of the festival. And it’s the only time of year they are made. Slugs have raised $50,000 over the past 30 years, which means thousands of people have been tempted by an item named for something you often find in the dirt and mud. They are sold for $3 each or two for $5, and all of the money raised has gone back into the community.
“We were looking for a fundraiser 30 years ago, and the president at that time had a lot of blackberries on their property,” said Jim Lamb, the current president of the Lions Club. “So we started collecting them and turned them into syrup.”
It’s unclear if Kitsap County has an official fruit, but if it did, the blackberry would have to be in the running, since they grow “almost like a weed” out here, according to festival chair John Stockwell. It is not uncommon to see people picking them on the side of the road.
“It’s something just about everyone has in their backyard, it seems,” said Stockwell. “But the berries themselves are delicious.”
And thus, an entire community festival was created around the blackberry. Now a large community fundraiser in its 28th year, proceeds go to the Bremerton Rotary Foundation, which provides money for scholarships for Bremerton students, and donates money to local projects, parks and events. The rotary operates the entire event.
Rotarians were also on hand to serve up fried oysters to the public, with the money also going towards the foundation.
On Saturday, Sept. 2, after a welcome from Bremerton Mayor Patty Lent, a Pacific Northwest-based musician, Steve Cossu, and his jazz trio began a long day’s worth of entertainment. The crowd poured in from downtown and the nearby ferry, some still clad in athletic clothing from the morning’s 5K run, to visit the vendors selling food, crafts and clothing.
The festival has grown by leaps and bounds since its move to the waterfront. It is now three days of music, stage shows, arts and crafts, food, blackberry wine and pie, and even the opportunity to take a 15-minute flight with the Young Eagles at Bremerton National Airport.
But still, nothing quite defines the Blackberry Festival better than this familiar refrain: “Fresh slugs! Get your slugs here!”