37th Annual Blueberry Festival on the horizon
Jesse Bonello - Staff Writer
Anticipation continues to grow as the 37th Annual Sioux Lookout Blueberry Festival quickly approaches.
Sioux Lookout Blueberry Festival co-coordinators Maddie Mesich and Hannah Willms shared that this year’s festival, which is running from August 2 to 11, will boast another packed schedule.
“Last year we had a pretty full schedule, and it seems like we definitely will this year as well. There are a few new things, as always, and a lot of old events that have been a part of blueberry festival for a long time, so I think it’s going to be another really full ten days again,” said Willms.
“It seems to be pretty similar. We’re waiting for a few more events to be confirmed. We’re going to be submitting our final copies of all the event descriptions really soon, so we’re trying to confirm some events,” said Mesich.
Due to a redevelopment project at Farlinger Park (the town beach) some events will have a new location during this year’s festival.
“Usually we have some children’s events that happen at the town beach, and also the fish fry, so they’re going to be moved this year. The firefighter’s kid’s day is going to be at the ball diamonds instead, and the fish fry is going to be at St. Andrew’s United Church because we don’t know when the renovations will necessarily be taking place,” explained Mesich.
“In terms of the events that the blueberry committee and staff actually run, for the past few years we’ve had them here at the Travel Information Centre. The opening ceremonies and Bert’s birthday party are the two biggest events that we run, and we had them here last year and it worked well. This is a great venue,” said Willms.
The schedule of events for this year’s festival will be coming out later this month, but Mesich and Willms confirmed that this year’s festival will feature old favourites, new events, and exciting additions to some annual events.
“A lot of the big favourite events are back again. The fish fry will be happening at St. Andrew’s United Church, the Legion puts on two steak barbecues that are back this year, the Rotary pancake breakfast, and the triathlon is celebrating its 30th year… The trade show will be happening again this year, and we’re going to have an Escape Sioux booth there, which is really cool. They’re going to be doing some promotion and a small escape room at their booth. The Travel Information Centre staff is also doing a car scavenger hunt again this year. We had our first one last year and it was a huge success, so we’re going to be doing it again this year,” said Mesich.
“The Slate Falls Airways balloon drop, I think the first year was last year, it was really cool. We brought Bert and it was really fun to watch, so it’s great that they’re doing that again. The float plane rides are also really popular, so that’s great to have back as well… Two years ago there was a five-kilometre fun run and last year we didn’t have one, but this year we’re going to have that again for anyone. It’s for people who want to run or people that want to come walk it with their family, so we’re hoping that will be a nice family event as well,” said Willms.
The two were also excited to share that this year’s festival will appeal to all ages, with events going on all festival at the Sioux Area Senior Activity Centre.
“The seniors’ centre this year is doing 55-plus games all week where they have different sports and games for seniors throughout the week. They’re doing seniors’ tennis, seniors’ pickle ball, seniors’ predicted walk where you complete a walk, guess how long it will take for you to do it and you win if your guess is closest to your actual time. It’s good to see the seniors’ centre do more events for seniors because the festival is great when it has events that can draw all ages,” said Willms.
Schedules and festival information is available at the Sioux Lookout Travel Information Centre but, this year, there will also be an additional location in town for people to rest, pick up schedules, and get information throughout the festival.
“Also new this year the Legion, downstairs, is running a hospitality room every afternoon during the festival, so every afternoon from one to five. They’ll have a few refreshments, information, and schedules for the festival, so it will be an additional info and resting point alongside the Travel Information Centre,” said Willms.
This year the Blueberry Festival is continuing an event that allows people to close out the festival while remembering and honouring loved ones who have passed away.
“This is the third year that the Blueberry Festival committee has had an event called Community Celebration of Life at the conclusion of the festival, the final evening, on August 11 this year… It’s held at Northway Cemetery, and we’re hoping to extend the word of that this year to get more people involved. We invite representatives from various churches and organizations around town to contribute some words or some songs. It’s an opportunity to perhaps celebrate a family member that has passed away or come together to conclude the festival and have more of a quiet, contemplative event,” said Willms.
Last year, Mesich was the festival coordinator with Wilms as the assistant coordinator. This year the two are co-coordinating the festival together. They shared that last year’s festival helped them gain experience, which has made this year’s planning process a bit easier for them.
“Especially in a small town, knowing who to contact for different things has helped a lot. It’s really useful having that experience, and just being more comfortable with the whole process of planning the festival,” said Mesich.
“It’s good to know which things are bigger priorities at different points in the season, and also building off last year and what we did in terms of promotion and getting the word out. We know how it went last year, and I think that has allowed us to do it a bit more effectively this year,” said Willms.
The 2018 festival also featured a partnership with Hub Transit, which allowed riders to purchase unlimited rides for the full ten days of the festival for just $50. Mesich and Willms shared that they’re planning on meeting with Hub Transit to propose a partnership because they felt last year went so well.
Blueberry Festival t-shirts, foldable water bottles, and sunglasses are available for purchase throughout the festival at the Sioux Lookout Travel Information Centre.
Once the complete schedule is created it will be available at various businesses around town, the Sioux Lookout Travel Information Centre, and online at www.blueberrybert.com. In the meantime, confirmed events and dates for this year’s festival can be seen at www.blueberrybert.com. Blueberry Festival updates and changes can also be seen on their Facebook page @BlueberryBert.