You can almost taste it, right? That cool blue sensation that awakens the pallet this time of year. Spring is nearly upon us and with it, the bountiful harvest of Florida blueberries.
On April 22 and 23, Brooksville will celebrate Florida’s fastest growing specialty crop of edibles by hosting the Sixth Annual Florida Blueberry Festival.
Each spring, more than 60,000 visitors flood this quaint, historic city to immerse themselves in all things blueberry. This festival offers a uniquely eclectic combination of attractions, appealing to every age group, every demographic.
Two stages of live concerts, 250 vendors, an endless supply of blueberry-infused yumminess, and a Kids Zone dedicated to little ones will surely keep visitors moving through Brooksville’s beautiful tree line streets.
And, splat in the middle of it all is an attraction that proved to be a highlight of last year’s festivities: a 1,000-foot water slide cascading down one of Brooksville’s mammoth hills.
“There really is something for everyone,” said Festival Director Michael Heard. “Every year, we build upon the biggest draws and add new features that make the festival even more exciting. It’s a great way to celebrate Florida’s blueberry bounty.”
As you step through the gate, the pies, jams and smoothies get everyone’s taste buds titillating. But save your appetite for the sizable food court anchored by a colossal helping of blueberry short cake. To work up your appetite, stroll through block after block of vendors offering unusual crafts, technological and agricultural gadgets, and live blueberry plants.
Those who appreciate the allure of fine art will enjoy an impressive collection of paintings, sculptures and photos displayed beneath a canopy of Live Oaks during the Tampa Bay Times Fine Arts & Fine Crafts Show, two-day juried art show. Inside City Hall’s Art Gallery showcases some of Hernando County’s most talented artists, including those who have just completed the week’s Plein Air Competition, sponsored by Friendly KIA of New Port Richey.
Off to the side is the activity-filled Blueberry Patch Kids Zone, featuring a three-story climbing wall, bungee acrobatics and a monster mural that kids can help colorize. But the true attraction to this year’s Zone is the Spring Skate sponsored by Oak Hill Pediatric Emergency Care Center, Suncoast OB/Gyn, and Nature Coast Primary Care where kids can take to the ice for free!
Then there is the continuous sound of music emanating throughout the venue. The Star Stage features a steady array of entertainment ranging from folk music to reggae and belly dancing.
Stop by the tasting pavilion hosted by Island Grove Winery and the Fish Hawk Spirits before heading to the concert band shell. Sessions there begin before noon and finish after sunset.
This year’s Festival pays tribute to the 70’s mega-band Foreigner and the ever-popular Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. This is the 40th anniversary of Foreigner’s founding, and the tribute band, Head Games, will attempt to do them justice Saturday night, while the Frankie Valli tribute band, Let’s Hang On, takes the stage Sunday afternoon.
Popular regional bands, The Greg Billings Band and The Bearded Brothers & Hugh Embry Band will be part of the nonstop entertainment. There is sure to be lots of toe tapping, and dancing in the streets.
Street performers, including jugglers, stilt performers and drum and bugle corps will be infused throughout the festival to add to the fun-filled atmosphere.
The festival is easy to find since most of the state’s major highways lead to Brooksville at the crossroads of US 41 and State Road 50.
Saturday is typically the busiest day, so if you enjoy a slower pace, Sunday’s event is for you. But, fair warning, the fresh blueberries and blueberry pies have been known to sell out before the concert’s grand finale!
Admission is free to children 12 and under, ages 13-17 are $5.00, ages 18 and up $10.00. Separate fees are collected for specialty attractions, including the Slide. All concerts are free with admission. For more information, and to purchase admission tickets in advance, visit the Festival website at http://www.floridablueberryfestival.org.
Oh, and check out the Bluesberries video here:
A portion of the proceeds from The Florida Blueberry Festival go to help the area community, including American Legion Post 99, Boy Scout Troup 71, First United Methodist Church of Brooksville, Greater Hernando County Chamber of Commerce, Hernando HS Leopard Quarterback Club, Hernando High School ROTC, Hernando High School Royale Regiment Band Boosters, Kiwanis Club of Ridge Manor, NAMI, Nature Coast Technical High School Tennis Team, Pure Country 4H Club, Rotary Club of Spring Hill Central, Springstead Marching Band, and the Vineyard Christian Church.
based on an article by Lara Bradburn, Blueberry Historian