BREMERTON — What’s extremely high in antioxidants and fiber, and has been known to aid in memory retention, muscle relaxation and in the clotting of blood?
If you answered “blackberries,” you’re right. But you probably know them as just tasting pretty good.
Also known as brambleberry, dewberry, and thimbleberry, the blackberry has a wide variety of celebrated health benefits, besides being tasty.
But in Bremerton, the fruit also has a festival — and a big following — on Labor Day weekend.
The 28th annual Blackberry Festival Sept. 2-4 will be chock full of berry excitement.
Located at the Bremerton Boardwalk, 100 Washington Beach Blvd., the festival will take place from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sept. 2; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sept. 3; and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 4.
Arrive by foot, bike, car, bus, boat, ferry or festival shuttle. Blackberry pies, cobbler, and lemonade await. And don’t forget the “slugs,” a delectable blackberry-filled beignet-type pastry sprinkled with powdered sugar. The treats, sold by the Bremerton Lions Club, have grown in popularity since they debuted in 1995.
Bremerton Mayor Patty Lent, a former Lions Club president, said of last year’s slug sales: “We made about $3,000 net profits. Each slug sells for $3 a piece or two for $5 … that’s a lot of slugs.”
Lent expects there will be quite a crowd this year with the addition of the passenger-only fast ferry between Seattle and Bremerton.
“They’re scheduled to make nine trips on Saturday,” she said. “It’s exciting. [This is] Blackberry Central and there are no two vendors alike. We have found this is one of our best festivals and it’s just a remarkable end to the summer tourist season.”
The celebration is literally stuffed with berry delicious selections, including popular blackberry wines and festival T-shirts. Stop by the Blackberry Central information booth for a run-down of festival details or pick up a free temporary tattoo.
Looking for a unique blackberry souvenir? Consider a select bottle of blackberry wine. Visit the Bremerton Rotary blackberry wine booth in front of the marina office as you enter the boardwalk from Second Street.
A bottle of blackberry table wine is available for $11 and a bottle of blackberry dessert wine is $13. Both are bottled by Pasek Cellars in Mount Vernon. Limited edition magnum bottles at $25 are available while supplies last. Festival-goers 21 and older can try a taste for 25 cents. Wine sales benefit the Bremerton Rotary Foundation.
From 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sept. 2 only, make your way to the Bremerton National Airport via airport shuttle from the upper level of the Bremerton Transportation Center. For $2 each way, the shuttle will escort festival-goers from the Blackberry Festival to the airport for activities sponsored by the Bremerton Pilots Association and the Port of Bremerton.
Though the airport events are not official Blackberry Festival events, they complement the festival with a touch of full-throttle excitement, including kids’ airplane rides and a classic car show.
Kids ages 8-17 can take a 15-minute flight with the Young Eagles. In addition to a classic car show, the West Sound Military Vehicle Preservation Club will display their collection of World War II vehicles and equipment near the airport diner.
Also, look out overhead — the Northwest BeechBoys Formation Team will conduct their 21st annual formation flight demonstrations over the downtown boardwalk and the airport beginning at noon. All airplane events are free to the public.
Also on Sept. 2, don’t miss Bremerton Parks and Recreation’s 23rd annual Berry Fun Run. Get your morning going with a 5K run, followed by a 1-miler and concluding with kids’ dashes of 25, 50 and 100 yards. Pre-registration and day of registration will be accepted. Register online at www.ci.bremerton.wa.us (Select “Departments,” then “Parks and Recreation,” then “Online Registration.”)
On Sept. 3, make your way to Second Street and Washington Avenue to join artists of all ages for the “Chalk the Block” event. From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. festival-goers can decorate a square with chalk for free; more dedicated artists can check in for the contest at 12:30 p.m. (register for $15). Registered artists will have from 1-4 p.m. to complete their masterpieces.
“This festival is a good celebration for the community to come together before the summer ends,” Festival Manager John Stockwell said. “Come out, enjoy the music, food and arts.”
Stockwell, who has been working the festival in one capacity or another for the past 17 years, said the festival raises between $45,000 to $55,000.
“For most of us, these berries grow wild right in our backyard. It’s a real celebration of the Kitsap County area. This is a real wrap-up celebration for the summer. It’s a great time for the people who want to come down and join in. And the best part is that all the funds are distributed back in the community.”
All proceeds from the Blackberry Festival support the Bremerton Rotary Foundation, providing scholarships for local students and thousands of dollars annually to local nonprofits, projects, parks, and events, as well as international projects.
(Sorry, dogs are not allowed for safety and food-sanitary reasons.)
For more information about the festival, go to www.blackberryfestival.org. (A schedule of events is printed on page 4.)
“This is one of the biggest events for our city,” Bremerton Rotary President Steven Strachan said. “Just seeing the board walk and the marina filled with people in a great mood and that view from our part of the city is a pretty priceless experience.”