The origin of Blueberry Festival
Originally printed in August 8, 2007 Edition
Over the years a number of people have asked about the origin of the Blueberry Festival. The idea of having a festival occurred to me in 1981. Other communities were having summer and fall events. Why couldn’t Sioux Lookout? Towns and cities in Northwestern Ontario had selected July and September as their major event weekends. This left August civic holiday as a possibility.
As President of the Hudson and Sioux Lookout Outfitters Association at that time, I recognized tourism in our area was down 50 percent, fishing was in decline, and conservation methods proposed by the outfitters had not yet been initiated. Our community needed another resource that had the potential to attract people to the Sioux Lookout area. August was, and is, blueberry time. Why not combine the two?
The idea was talked about at the kitchen table with the family and presented to the outfitter’s association as the umbrella organization to move the idea forward. In the spring of 1982 the outfitters accepted a motion and $600 was set aside for this endeavour. At about this same time my aunt Emma Bowes talked to her daughter Barbara about my idea. After listening to the idea, Barbara wanted to become involved. Barbara prepared the application to The Honourable Leo Bernier, our provincial government member of Parliament, for funding. A grant of $6000 was received.
By this time word was on the street that there would be a summer event in 1983. It would be called the Blueberry Festival. Organizers could participate by raising funds and former citizens were encouraged to use this as a homecoming event.
The work of organizing was becoming more involved on a daily basis. I realized it had to be a community sponsored, not tourist outfitters event, if it were to succeed. At this same time Marnie Hoey, President of the Sioux Lookout Chamber of Commerce, was very involved and willing to take it over on behalf of the chamber and the community.
On a sunny Saturday afternoon 25 years ago The Honourable Leo Bernier, Marnie Hoey and I stood outside the Mayfair Theatre and officially cut the ribbon for the Blueberry Festival. Althea George presented the first of many fabulous blueberry cakes.
Over the years many wonderful people have worked tirelessly, but at this time I want to mention the following; Betty Lee, the first coordinator with summer students Christine Hoey, Jeff Donnelly and Barbara Lockhart, who together coordinated all the events; Frank Kent of K-Signs who designed the highway advertising and banners; Les Cosco who designed the first tee shirt; Sherry Glena of Hudson, who created our Bert for trademark registration; and Susan Scott, a former Sioux Lookout figure skating club professional who added his britches a few years later.
Thank you, Sioux Lookout. I’m HOMETOWN PROUD!
Sincerely, Allan Pizziol