Thousands will fill downtown Lenoir on Saturday during the 14th annual N.C. Blackberry Festival, but festival organizers hope that when it’s over and the crowds are headed home they feel like they’ve become part of a special small-town community.
“We have managed to make the event a truly community engaged event,” said Deborah Ashley Smith, president of the Caldwell County Chamber of Commerce which organizes the festival each year. “I think all in all, what you get at this festival is the feeling of a small town and a community that unites.”
The festival events begin at 6 p.m. tonight during the Pre-Heat Party on the square in downtown Lenoir. The party will include a beer garden featuring local ales from local breweries.
The Blackberry Princess Pageant prelims begin at 6 p.m. as girls ages 4-8 from across the area vie for the crown. Any girl can participate – even if they don’t have a fancy dress.
“We absolutely do not allow them to wear pageant wear. They can wear Sunday dresses or sun dresses or shorts,” Smith said. “These little girls are judged on their personality and I love seeing kids of all areas of life come out and compete.”
Also during the Pre-Heat Party there will be a front porch pickin’ and blackberry recipe contest at 7 p.m. followed by a Glow Run 5K.
While there will have been plenty of fun had by many on Friday night, it’s just a warm-up for the festival on Saturday. Last year, the festival drew more than 14,000 people and Smith said there’s no reason to believe this year’s festival won’t draw more than that. She believes one of the reasons the festival is such a hit with is because of the meticulous planning and relationships that have been built by festival coordinator Libby Killian.
Killian researched and hand-selected the 200 vendors that will set-up shop in downtown Lenoir from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday.
“This is a process that goes on all year long and that is one of the things that the vendors love about our festival,” Smith said.
N.C. Blackberry Princess Pageant finals will be at 10 a.m. followed by the eating contests at 11:15 a.m. Presentation of Colors Ceremony at noon and music beginning at 1 p.m.
“This year the Harper School will be entertaining for about an hour and we are really excited,” Killian said.
One of the unique things about the N.C. Blackberry Festival is the World’s Largest Patchwork of Blackberry Cobbler. On Friday, pre-registered bakers from around the county will pick up the ingredients needed to make a blackberry cobbler. On Saturday the bakers will deliver their cobblers to a staging area where members of many different community organizations will be waiting. At 12:15 the 230 cobblers will paraded through the festival.
“When the cobblers are all on the table together they look like a patchwork quilt,” Ashley said. “It’s a pretty amazing thing and it’s so unique and it really does bring the community together.”
This year’s attendees will be introduced to the festival’s new mascots.
The Blackberry Bear Twins, a boy and girl, have their own coloring book that will be given away at the festival. Children will also get coloring pages to take home with them and return to the Chamber of Commerce as part of a contest.
This year, Killian and Smith believe that the folks from Lineberger’s Killdeer Farms have come up with a plan they hope will allow everyone a chance to buy blackberries to take home with them by having a second truck-load of blackberries sent from the farm if necessary.
“They are commercial growers who have been with us for all fourteen years and they bring more and more blackberries each year,” Smith said. “He tries to make a good guess about how many he needs and he’s worked very hard this year to come up with a plan.”
[“source – hickoryrecord.com”]