Festival goers take part in a blueberry pie eating contest. This year, there will be no more than three contestants at a table. Contributed / Heather Bennoti

The Fifth Annual Gray Blueberry Festival is back this summer with some novel additions.

The festival, Aug. 14, has expanded and will be two hours longer, running from 9:30 a.m. until 6 p.m. at Town Hall. Live music, food trucks, a beekeeper, craft market and a kid’s tent will featured throughout the day, along with a blueberry pie-eating contest, a bake-off, spelling bee,  lawn games, races, a caricature artist and more. The festival was not held last summer because of the pandemic.

Horses pull a carriage at the 2018 festival. This year, there will be free horse drawn hay rides sponsored by Patriot Dental from 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Contributed / Heather Bennoti

Bernice Cocoran has been attending for years and is now a member of  the town’s Blueberry Festival Committee. This year she’ll have her own art booth at the festival.

“It’s just a great community building event. It’s all mostly locally sponsored so you know most people that come from the general area,” Cocoran said. “(People) just enjoy the town and realize that we’ve got more to offer.”

The festival will include an educational component to highlight the state’s wild blueberries as well as the importance of bees and pollination. The Wyman’s Bee Wild Mobile will make an appearance from 9:30 to 11 a.m. to demonstrate the connection between bees and blueberries.

“This festival is unique for the area because it’s not just for fun,” said Lacy Antonson, chairperson of the Blueberry Festival Committee. “We’re trying to, in a way, help the state because we’re promoting the consumption of wild blueberries. We’re promoting Maine as a unique state, we’re promoting our state’s wild blueberries and (educating) about the value of bees.”

Prior to the pandemic, adult attendees would receive a cup of blueberries upon entering the festival. This year, however, the festival will use its funds from a grant from the Wild Blueberry Commission to raffle off a container of blueberries every 15 minutes.

Chalk artist Kristen Eubank shows off her design at the 2019 festival. Eubank will be back this year with a new design. Contributed / Heather Bennoti

“It’s a great way to experience the community and the people you live with in a little bit of a different way,” Cocoran said. “We didn’t see hardly anybody last year, so this will be nice to get out there and be able to socialize and run into folks.”

This year, especially, many Gray residents are eagerly awaiting the festival after last year was put on hold due to the pandemic.

“There’s just so much joy and vitality at the festival,” Antonson said. “If you’ve never gone, you need to go.”

To stay up to date on the festival’s news, follow them the Gray Blueberry Festival on Facebook.

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