Blackberry Festival brings more to the table

Jul. 09, 2014 @ 08:13 AM

Each July, downtown Lenoir gets taken over by the product of a thorny, thicket-growing plant, colonizing the streets and sidewalks and creating a ruckus throughout the city.

This weekend, it will happen again, at the 13th annual North Carolina Blackberry Festival, bringing 150 vendors and nearly 15,000 visitors to celebrate that thorny plant.

The festival this year will be bigger and better, with new Friday night festivities and the addition Saturday of an appearance by the maker of a popular chocolate spread and a blood drive, said Deborah Ashley Smith, president of the Caldwell County Chamber of Commerce, a co-sponsor of the festival.

“Eventually we hope to make this a weekend-long festival,” Smith said.

The Blackberry Pre-heat Party on Friday night is a start toward that, said Libby Killian, event coordinator for this year’s festival.

“We’re encouraging people to come downtown, spend the evening and just have a nice, entertaining evening pre-Blackberry Festival, 6 o’clock all the way to 10 o’clock,” Killian said.

The day before Lenoir’s streets are stuffed with all things blackberry, the center square downtown will host the Parkin’ Lot Pickin’ competition, a beer garden featuring beer from downtown's Howard Brewing, a blackberry recipe contest and a concert by Caldwell native Jonathan Dale at 8 p.m.

Nutella, a brand of hazelnut chocolate spread manufactured by sweets company Ferrero, is the festival a stop on its 2014 Truck Tour, offering free samples and activities at its 50-foot-long bus and giant Nutella jar. The American Red Cross will have the Blackberry Blood Drive, and organizers hope to collect 40 pints of blood during a time of the year when supplies are short, Smith said.The Lenoir Downtown Farmers Market is giving each donor a pint of Chamomile summer punch tea.

Saturday, things start early with the Blackberry Shuffle 5K and Fun Run at 8 a.m. downtown, benefitting the Shelter Home of Lenoir. The Blackberry Princess Pageant starts at 10 a.m.

At 11:15 a.m., the Blackberry Eating Contest begins, followed at noon by a presentation of the colors ceremony.

At 12:15 p.m., the Colossal Cobbler Parade Brigade begins, carting in the blackberry cobblers that will together form the world’s largest patchword blackberry cobbler. This year, the patchwork is expected to consist of 225 cobblers, all of which will then be served up for free.

Live music starts at 12:30 p.m. And throughout the day, vendors will line the streets.

For more information on the Blackberry Festival, call the chamber of commerce at 828-726-0616 or visit ncblackberryfestival.com.