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Blueberry mania at Wellborn festival

By Gabrielle Stevenson

The town of Wellborn was overflowing with visitors in search of blueberries and fun at the 24th Annual Wellborn Blueberry Festival held Saturday, June 3, 2017. The festival is hosted by the Wellborn Community Association (WCA) and featured the annual blueberry pancake breakfast followed by an annual parade, quality vendors selling unique items, a car show featuring forty-eight different vehicles, children’s activities, live entertainment and of course, everything blueberry one could imagine, including farm fresh baskets of blueberries and ready-to-plant blueberry bushes, always an event favorite.

Almost everyone who attends the Blueberry Festival stops in at the “Country Store”, located on the event grounds, where homemade blueberry pies, muffins, syrups, honeys, jams, candy and more are sold every year. This year, the baked goods were donated by RiverOak Technical College’s culinary department. According to the Country Store Chairperson, Frances Martin, the students baked over 250 pies and cobblers this year.

Rows of vendors at the 24th Annual Wellborn Blueberry Festival last Saturday. - SVT Photo by Gabrielle Stevenson

Every year, this community oriented festival is always kicked-off with a blueberry pancake breakfast of which Mayso Martin was the chairman. They served nearly eight hundred pancake breakfasts the morning of the fest. A parade followed and this year’s Grand Marshals were Ruth Mizell and Eddie Jo McLaren, both of whom are Wellborn natives and active community members with deep roots in the town.

According to WCA President Rob Dawson, “The breakfast stations and the Country Store provide all the funding for all the activities we do throughout the year in the community. We do Christmas parties, Halloween parties, an Easter egg hunt, we do back to school fundraisers. It’s the tight-knit relationships in this community that really makes this come together.”

-Courtesy Photo from Wellborn Community Association

Rows of vendors came to sell items and gain exposure at the event and a steady crowd stream throughout fest grounds assured that. A new vendor at the Blueberry Festival, Southern Fire Pits of Mayo, Florida, caught many eyes with their incredible custom fire pit displays. The company formed in January by Jonathan McCray and his wife Melissa. At their vendor booth, huge cast iron fire pits decoratively cut into unique works of art drew crowds in for a closer look.

Jonathan McCray explained how it all started, “I’ve always welded and messed around in the backyard. I actually had a bowl pit in my yard that I wanted to work on. I told my wife one day I wanted to buy a plasma cutter, so I did. Before it got there I started thinking of the things I could cut with it and here we are. We can do anything. We have a shop in Mayo. They sell anywhere from $200 to $3,000 depending on what you want.”

Festival Vendor, Jonathan McCray of Southern Fire Pits, stands among some of company’s unqiue creations. - SVT Photo by Gabrielle Stevenson

Another new vendor to the Blueberry Festival was Fat Yankee Jerky out of Spring Hill, Florida. Keith Rainville is the owner of the business and sold out of his products while at the festival. Guests tried different varieties of jerky flavors at their booth and could buy large or small bags of their favorites. The small company with big flavor is run through online orders of their jerky and gains more fans at every festival or event they go to.

Festival vendor Keith Rainville and owner of Fat Yankee Jerky sold out of his delicious wares at the Blueberry Festival. - SVT Photo by Gabrielle Stevenson

Rainville said, “We’re always looking for events. My wife and I work a couple of events a weekend. This is our first time here. All of our products are made with black angus beef. It’s all hand-cut and all hand-trimmed by myself. We don’t put any nitrate or any msg in our jerky and it’s made fresh to order every single week. It’s free shipping all the time. We started the business about a year ago. We owned some other businesses in Florida and after selling those, we took this product to market. It’s been a great success. We actually sell out every week. We only produce 800 to 1000 bags at a time. We make four to five hundred pounds a week and there’s only four of us that make it.”

The sense of community pride in Wellborn could not be missed at this year’s Blueberry Festival as families celebrated the event together and spent the day among friends and neighbors. Rob Dawson expressed his great appreciation to all the volunteers that make the festival possible and said they are always looking for more people willing to help out.

At the Blueberry Festival’s “Coutnry Store” homemade blueberry baked goods of all kinds are sold every year and is always a fest favorite. - SVT Photo by Gabrielle Stevenson

He commented, summing up the day perfectly, “With all the stuff that’s going on in the world today, it’s time to get back into the community. Put down your phones, turn off your computers, find out who your neighbors are and take the opportunity to do something for someone else with the obligation to do it.”