Powell River businesses step up to continue summer tradition on Marine Avenue

Annual Blackberry Festival returns August 11 to 18

Just as the time for picking Powell River’s sweet, juicy, locally abundant blackberries approaches, so too does Blackberry Festival, one of the community’s most popular summer events.

This year’s weeklong extravaganza runs from August 11 to 18 and includes events such as a comedy night at Cranberry Community Hall; high tea at Edie Rae’s Cafe in the Old Courthouse Inn; a Townsite picnic, aptly named Blackberry Jams, which will include blackberry jam-making as well as a musical jam at Henderson Park; and the always popular Blackberry Street Party in the evening of Friday, August 16, along Marine Avenue between Duncan and Alberni streets.

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Quality Foods has stepped up again this year to provide the festival and its visitors with a Festival of Lights fireworks show at dusk. 

The time is now for would-be vendors to book kiosk space at the upcoming Blackberry Street Party.

“We're currently collecting vendor applications for Marine Avenue and the deadline for that is August 9,” says festival coordinator and Marine Area Business Association (MABA) president Kelly Keil. “Whether this is their first year or their 20th, vendors need to submit an application if they want to participate at the street party.”

Fees for kiosk space ranges from $50 to $150 for the night. There is no charge for MABA members to have an exhibit, says the organization’s vice-president Jennifer Konopelski.

“We're always looking for musicians and street performers," she adds. “There’s no fee for street entertainers.”

Blackberry Festival, which was recently voted best festival in Powell River, started in 1993. For the past 26 years it has been organized by MABA volunteers.

“I don't think many people know that it's actually MABA that puts on Blackberry Festival," says MABA board director Katie McLean. “I think people just assume it’s something that just happens every year and is put on by the city or the Chamber of Commerce, which is not so.”

Just as it is hard to picture an August without blackberries, it’s also hard to imagine Powell River without Blackberry Festival, says Keil. But, 2018 was almost the festival’s last year, she adds. 

Several members of the previous MABA board, including long-term president Cathy MacDonald, retired and left many vacancies and the future of the festival in question. 

“A lot of us joined MABA this year because we couldn't bear to see Blackberry Festival come to an end,” says Elaine Steiger, one of seven new directors on the nine-member board.

Only Anna Hindle and McLean held their seats on the board. 

The new board includes Keil, Konopelski, secretary Karyne Bailey, treasurer Caleb Volenberg, and five directors: Hindle, McLean, Steiger, Christine Konopelski and Kim Wall.

MABA’s purpose, officially, is to promote business and manage growth in the downtown Marine area of Powell River, and to sponsor festivals and community events to better the neighbourhood, says Bailey. 

“Right now, we’re really a festival committee,” adds Wall. “We are about the restoration and beautification of Marine Avenue, but we’re open to new ideas.” 

The two main events MABA presents each year are the Santa Claus Parade in December and Blackberry Festival in August. The association has continued, over the past decade, to fundraise to have a town clock installed at the corner of Alberni Street and Marine Avenue. That project will be coming to a conclusion with the installation of the clock this fall, according to Hindle. 

MABA is looking for new local businesses to join the association and has restructured its fees, which are tiered based on the number of full-time employees a business has. Membership fees range from $50 to $200 annually. 

Blackberry Street Party vendor applications are available on MABA's Facebook page or can be picked up at Hindle's Camera and Stationery, Oceanside Books and Games, The Nutcracker Market, or the Peak. Fees can be dropped off each location.

For more information, questions can be sent to marineareaba@gmail.com

 
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