May 26 11:23 AM

Hometown fun at Blueberry Fest

Two-day event draws large crowds to Imlay City's downtown district

August 06, 2008
IMLAY CITY — Whether local residents were trying to save money on gas or enjoying a good time with families and friends, the 2008 Blueberry Festival enjoyed a banner weekend.

Large crowds flocked downtown Friday and Saturday (Aug. 1-2), affording Blueberry Festival organizers a well-deserved chance to celebrate.

"I was very happy to see the increased attendance," said Blueberry Festival Committee co-chairperson Julie Salsido. "I liked having a second stage and the parade was great. But we're already looking at ways to improve the festival and make it grow next year.

"We couldn't do this without the support of our local businesses and the community," Salsido added, "and we got a lot of assistance from the city manager (Amy Planck) and chamber of commerce director (Sally Reinhardt). We had a lot of help."

Blueberry Parade Grand Marshal John Mulder and his wife Sharon smile for the crowd. photo by Catherine Minolli.

Hundreds attended the various concerts and musical programs at the two downtown stages; while countless others took part in a multitude of organized games, contests and social activities.

The traditional pizza, blueberry pie-eating and pickle-eating contests attracted the usual assemblage of children, parents and grandparents; as did the ever-popular pet parade, car show, clowns, inflatables and moonwalk, and fireworks display on Friday.

For those preferring to just people-watch or sample the cuisine, there was a wide variety of food vendors available, along with ample seating near the gazebo to kick back and enjoy the festivities.

During the evening hours, the Rotary Club beer tent was the place to go to refresh, dance to a D.J. and share lively conversation with fellow residents and visitors.

The only interruption in the weekend's activities took place on Friday evening, when steady rain and lightning forced songstress Katie Whitis-Brady to cut her show short by a half-hour.

When the skies finally cleared, the sound crew from Zone Productions worked a minor miracle, allowing Wayward Wind to take the stage for a spirited show for those whose spirits were undampened by the elements.

On Saturday, the streets were teeming with people by mid-afternoon, all waiting for the start of the annual Blueberry Parade, which began at 6 p.m.

More than 100 organizations and marching units took part in the parade, which featured the Imlay City High School marching band, Little Miss Blueberry Emily Lowe, Grand Marshal John John Mulder, local dance troupes and an array of politicos seeking support in the Aug. 5 primary election.

Adding a special touch to the parade were residents Mike Powers and Rod Soule, who shared the mic to announce each of the parade entries as they passed the small stage at Third and Bancroft streets.

Immediately after the parade, much of the crowd reassembled at the main stage for a show featuring Justine Blazer, a 2007 and 2008 Detroit Music Award nominee in the categories of Best Country Performer, Best Blues Performer and Best Songwriter.

The main stage entertainment lineup concluded with a lively performance of originals and cover songs by the Benjamin Lake Band, whose members sailed in from St. Clair Shores.

All-in-all, said committee chairman Walt Bargen, the 2008 Blueberry Festival was one to remember.

"Had it not been for Mother Nature's visit on Friday night, we were on track for a very nice-size crowd that evening," said Bargen. "I was very pleased with the way things went on Saturday. We had a lot of people for the parade, many of whom stayed downtown after it was over."

Bargen also promised improvements and enhancements at the 2008 Blueberry Festival, including making better accommodations for crafters and non-food vendors.

"We will try to relocate them nearer the activities next year," said Bargen, noting that the vendors had been located along Main Street in the past.

"I want to thank everyone on the committee for their hard work," Bargen added. "Thanks also to our businesses and to the community for coming out to the event. Our goal was to provide something that people of all ages would enjoy. We hope we accomplished that."

Castle Creek
Milnes Ford
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