Georgia Blueberry Festival returns this weekend

The state’s blueberry capital canceled the event last year due to COVID-19
Georgia Blueberry Festival returns this weekend
Georgia Blueberry Festival returns this weekend
Updated: Jun. 3, 2021 at 8:33 PM EDT
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ALMA, Ga. (WTOC) - The Georgia Blueberry Festival returns Friday in Alma.

Organizers canceled the event last year in response to COVID-19. This year, the festivities will include a parade, live music, a stilt walker and all the blueberries you could ever want - including a blueberry pie eating contest.

”The festival is so important to this community because it brings in people from all over to come and enjoy what we grow,” Sponsorship Chairperson Ann Wildes said.

The Georgia Blueberry festival kicks off Friday, June 4 at 1:00 p.m. and continues through Saturday evening.

The parade will step off at 10:00 a.m. Saturday.

All the festivities will happen at Goldwasser Park in downtown Alma.

Organizers say they felt heartbroken last year to cancel due to the pandemic. But they felt it was better to be safe than sorry during the height of the pandemic. Their approach for the past several months has been to plan for a festival unless circumstances forced them to cancel. They were encouraged by Governor Bryan Kemp’s lifting of restrictions on gatherings. They say even if they have fewer vendors or visitors, they’re excited to bring back a piece of normal life here.

“People have been shut in for a year and four months, five months, and they’re ready to get out. So we said, ‘It’s a go.’ We’ll give them something to do.,” said Vicki Vickers, Festival Committee Pres.

She says they felt an open air event like this offers less chance of COVID spread, but still shifted some booths around to lessen crowds and give people the chance to enjoy the day.

Blueberry growers have been picking for the past two months on this crop. After losing back to back crops not that long ago, they say this is a good year to have a good year.

Blueberry bushes cover more than 8,000 acres across the county. It’s the leading county for production in Georgia, as the state emerges as one of the biggest producers in the nation. Local growers keep a balance between varieties that produce fruit early and others that produce later into the summer.

“Talking to farmers so far and based on what I’ve seen, the High Bush was a pretty good crop,” said Zack Williams, UGA Extension.

He says harvest of the Rabbit Eye variety will start next. In 2017 and 2018, growers lost crops on the eve of harvest from late spring freezes. Zack says some are still recovering and they need a good season for 2021.

“It’s crucial. The name of the game is making money but also feed the country and feed the world at the same time.”

Growers could wrap up their harvest in July.

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