Despite its small size, the blackberry fruit has become the central focus of the annual Blackberry Festival for the last 25 years in Bremerton.
“It’s always a good time. We always have a wonderful time,” said Carol Atkinson, Blackberry Festival director. “One of the highlights is the Friday setup.You see the boardwalk absolutely bare and then you see these people slowly filling it up.”
As always, the Labor Day weekend event will fill the Bremerton boardwalk with 130 vendors offering everything from jewelry to blackberry baked goods and more. Second Street will also be shut down for kid-centered activities, including a magic show, face painting and more.
Those who live in Port Orchard will be able to easily reach the boardwalk via the foot ferry. Rides will start at 8:30 a.m. and the cost is $2 each way. Shuttle service will also be available from the festival to the Bremerton National Airport for the Fly-In on Saturday. Transportation leaves from the upper level of the Bremerton Transportation Center for $2. Park and ride from Olympic College is also $2 each way for easy access to the event.
The three-day festival is often a farewell event to summer and beautiful weather. It’s a chance for the community to gather and enjoy one another’s company, Atkinson said.
“Obviously it’s a beautiful setting,” she said. “It is congested because we have so many people there. People seem to really like it, and the vendors obviously like it because they do very well.”
Part of the reasons the vendors like the event is because there are no duplicates of businesses, Atkinson said. Each vendor offers something unique, whether it be the blackberry “slugs” — a sticky maple bar made with blackberry filling and topped with whipped cream — or handmade jewelry.
Some vendors even bring special imports that are unlikely to be found anywhere else, like Russian Unique Imports owner Natalya Butusova-Croffman. Originally from Moscow, Butusova-Croffman brings her heritage with her by bringing in items that are handcrafted by Russian artists.
“You don’t see two of the same,” Butusova-Croffman said of her imports, which include nesting dolls and lacquered boxes. Visitors to her booth can expect Russian folk art items that she brings in from her Federal Way store.
For the last 15 years, she’s come to the Blackberry Festival, which she prefers to larger ones like Bumpershoot.
“I like how it’s organized and I like how the community’s involved,” she said. “It’s a good feeling.”
Those who attend can also expect plenty of live entertainment nearly on the hour. Special to the 25th anniversary will be a dove release on Aug. 30, the first day of the event.
“The bands and music gigs are the thread that folds everything together,” said Bremerton Mayorw Patty Lent. “The weather always cooperates and so many of our civic organizations, non-profit agencies and mostly private retail items are a delight.”
Lent also said she’s happy to see the organizers of the event celebrating 25 years of hosting a successful event in her city.
“This Labor Day event draws over 70,000 visitors and residents to our boardwalk each year to experience the vendors with everything “blackberry” as well as only one of a kind displays of goods, treats, information, and gadgets,” she said.
For more information, visit www.blackberryfestival.org for a schedule of events.
IF YOU GO
What: Blackberry Festival 2014
Where: Louis Mentor Boardwalk
Hours of operation
Saturday: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Sunday: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Monday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.