When Powell River residents descend upon Marine Avenue for the Blackberry Street Party on tonight (6 to 10 pm, Friday, August 19), few in attendance will have any idea about origins of the popular event. Cancellations for two years running due to COVID-19 likely further clouds how the “social event of the season” first came about.
In 1985, a small committee organized a homemade wine competition and baking contest. As a result, the Berry Best Cook Book was published and featured winners in commercial and amateur categories. The handwritten cookbook continues to be a recipe gold mine for anyone lucky enough to own a copy.
At one point during the process, a committee member came up with an idea to honour the blackberry, somehow, some way.
Some thoughts are never mentioned by individuals who dream them up, and others are disregarded or fail when attempted. Some ideas lead to moderate success, and a few are absolute gems. Blackberry Festival is a prime example of the latter.
For more than three decades, aside from COVID years and the odd rainstorm, thousands of people have flocked to the annual gathering to sample food, listen to music and catch up with old friends or former schoolmates. The pandemic temporarily put a stop to that reminiscing. Only time will tell if those throngs of people are ready to revisit the 37-year-old festival. We’ll find out tonight!
Due to the blackberry’s usual abundance in the qathet region, with this year seeming to be an outlier, the honour as festival namesake is more than deserved for the wild, invasive species that brings the community together for one night. With grocery costs continuing to rise, the price of the wild blackberry remains the same: free (if you can find a ripe patch these days).
The only real price is the effort: picking a sufficient number, processing the bounty and, on occasion, dealing with the odd cut to the finger from handling the sometimes treacherous plant.
After that, blackberries just keep on giving. Their versatility is only confined to the imagination of whomever takes them out of the refrigerator or freezer to turn them into sauces, spreads, drinks, dressings, desserts or snacks.
That initial effort is rewarded with delicious results throughout the year, whether it’s a smoothie in November, a crisp in January or syrup for pancakes in April.
Many who venture down to Marine Avenue have a favourite vendor in mind who makes their favourite treat once per year. What’s yours?
Fingers crossed they’ll be back after the unwanted hiatus.