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Best of the Blues

The Florida Blueberry Festival returns

By Cynthia McFarland - Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Quick, let’s play the word association game.

I say, “blueberries.”

You say, “Florida,” right? If not, you’re missing something.

Michigan may lead the industry in U.S. blueberry production, but Florida shoppers will find the freshest blueberries right here in the Sunshine State, thanks to hundreds of Florida farmers.

You might like blueberries because they’re so tasty. That’s a no-brainer, but did you realize their amazing health benefits?

Research shows that blueberries contain polyphenols, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which help lessen the inflammatory process associated with serious chronic conditions, such as cancer, cardiovascular disease and age-related cognitive decline.

With everything blueberries have going for them, it’s only natural there’s a festival celebrating these remarkable little blue powerhouses.

Mark your calendars for April 22 and 23, as the Florida Blueberry Festival returns to the historic streets of Brooksville for a jam-packed weekend.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a blueberry festival without blueberries in every form. You’ll find blueberry shortcake, pies and sundaes, blueberry lemonade, even blueberry wine, craft beer and vodka. Indulge to your heart’s content at the festival, and then bring home fresh berries from regional Florida farms to continue your healthy feasting.

“The Florida Blueberry Festival has been a tremendous success. This is a regional event that reaches far beyond Brooksville and Polk County,” acknowledges Michael Heard, president, event and marketing coordinator of the Florida Blueberry Festival and also the festival’s founder.

Title sponsors of the festival include the City of Brooksville, the Florida Blueberry Growers Association and Florida’s Adventure Coast. Brooksville has been adopted by the Florida Blueberry Growers Association as the home of their association and host city of the festival.

Heard notes that for future festivals, there are plans for a long-term lease to build a venue and building for the Florida Blueberry Growers Association. In the meantime, Brooksville closes down traffic on two state roads to provide a downtown setting for entertainment, music, kids’ fun and food.

Blueberries And A Whole Lot More

This April marks the sixth annual festival, and the event continues to expand, growing by at least 10 percent each year. Some 60,000 people from across Central Florida attended the 2016 festival. The burgeoning numbers are a direct result of the festival’s well-rounded appeal to people of all ages.

Families in particular appreciate the plentiful activities for children, such as the Blueberry Kids Zone, hosted by Suncoast Credit Union, where young festival attendees can try their hand at arts and crafts and meet Curious George and “Auntie Oxident.” Even the GEICO Gecko will be at the festival this year.

It may be April in Florida, but kids can enjoy “ice” skating on an artificial surface at the Spring Free Skate, sponsored by Oak Hill Pediatric Care Unit.

Wear something you don’t mind getting wet because you won’t want to miss The Urban Slide®, a 1,000-foot Slip-N-Slide. Not just for kids, this is your chance to slide and splash all the way down the steepest slope in Brooksville.

When you’re ready for more “grown up” indulgences, stop by the Island Grove Wine Café and enjoy a glass of regionally grown and produced blueberry wine or craft beer. You’ll also want to try the fruit vodka by Fish Hawk Spirits.

The festival is also the perfect place for shopping as you meander your way through 250 arts and crafts vendors and specialty retail booths. When you’re ready to rest and relax a bit, make your way to the music venues where, throughout both days, live music and entertainment continues with everything from belly dancers to tribute bands. Plus, you never know when you’ll run into jugglers and stilt walkers who entertain and amuse throughout the streets.

You’ll be having such a good time you won’t realize that the Florida Blueberry Festival is really about helping local charities. For a relatively young event, the festival has been highly successful in benefiting worthy organizations.

“Last year’s festival raised $50,207 for charitable partnership organizations,” says Heard. “In addition, we have multiple 501(c)(3) organizations that help park cars ($5 per vehicle). These charity beneficiaries keep every dollar earned, which totaled $42,700 last year.”

Sounds like those little blueberries really are worth their weight in gold, so don’t miss this year’s Florida Blueberry Festival!

 

Florida Blueberry Festival 2017

›When? Saturday, April 22: 10am-8pm. Sunday, April 23: 11am-5pm.

Where? Historic downtown Brooksville, approximately 10-15 miles west of I-75 at exit 301

Admission? Adults (18+) $10, Youth 13 to 17 $5, Kids 12 and under free

Parking? $5 (all parking donations benefit the charitable organization operating the lots)

Handicapped accessible? Yes, handicapped parking is also available at First United Methodist Church.

Pets welcome? Yes, if on a leash

Need more information? floridablueberryfestival.org, (352) 754-4173

Source: blueberriesfromflorida.com




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