I promised my co-workers I’d bring them homemade blueberry muffins on Monday morning, but they’re going to be disappointed.
The scads of locally grown blueberries I expected at low, low prices were nowhere in sight at the annual Florida Blueberry Festival May 4 in charming Brooksville, Fla., Florida’s Rural Community of the Year in 2000. The festival continues 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. today (May 5.) Parking is $10 and admission is $5 for adults.
After 30 minutes of wandering and browsing, the first blueberries I saw were these.
“Oh, Blueberry Butt!” a woman standing near me shouted. (Is that the official name for statues with clusters of blue balls on their backsides? I don’t know. But I was glad to see at least some homage to my favorite berry.)
The Blueberry Butts stood in front of a fun antiques consignment shop called Easy Street Home Decor. Loved this giant spider on their storefront, made from recycled metal doodads.
Fellow blueberry tripper Janna Begole and I soon discovered Island Grove Wine Co. , which offered tastings of 8 wines for $4.
My favorite was Sorta Sweet Blueberry Wine — it’s made 100 percent from blueberries. Most of the other wines, like Bold Blackberry and Southern Strawberry, are merlots and Rieslings with fruit juice added for flavor. Very tasty, but if I’m gonna drink wine, I want 100 percent.
(Chase Marden, who guided Janna and me through our tasting, is the wine maker. He says the tour of their vineyard in Hawthorne, Fla., is a whole lot of fun — and I believe him. He’s a lot of fun!)
Another favorite vendor was Dona Designs. This Jacksonville area artist creates fun ceramic birdhouses and birdfeeders. Janna picked up a great Mother’s Day gift, and I found a very affordable, personalized birthday present for my sister and her husband.
Janna and I both loved this whimsical birdhouse by Dona. (Prices start at about $40.)
“The best restaurant in town is Rising Sun Cafe. I know. I live here,” she said. (Later she told me the proprietors feed the homeless every Sunday.)
Our blueberry-starved souls found nourishment here. We got ’em in our water!
I ordered the Blueberry Festival chicken sandwich — pulled chicken with Sonny’s BBQ sweet sauce mixed with a puree of blueberries. Janna got a steak and cheese pannini with onions, peppers and roasted summer squash. Both were excellent. (Cost: About $8 per sandwich. They come with chips and a pickle.)
What the heck is a blueberry corn dog? I asked the teenager manning this booth. He said he initially thought, “Ewww.”
The dog’s batter is mixed with artificial blueberry flavorings plus real blueberries.
“I had one this morning. It’s really good,” he said.
Dole is the No.1 sponsor of this fest, and the only blueberries we found (besides plump pints at Rising Sun Cafe for $4.99) were Dole’s half-pints for $3. Which is what I can buy at my local grocer. Disappointing!
But wine-maker Island Grove had blueberry bushes for $5 ,or 3 for $10, and we saw lots of people walking around with them. In fact, people were mobbing Island Grove’s plant stand.
Yup, I bought one.
And they came with, hooray!, blueberries!