Organizers of this year’s Brigus Blueberry Festival say the 23rd annual event was the biggest ever, with an estimated 17,000 people taking in the four-day event, which ran from Aug. 12-15.
The previous high mark was 15,000 visitors.
“ It was phenomenal. Or as the young people would say, it was awesome,” said festival chairman and Brigus Mayor Byron Rodway.
Rodway said the weather was fantastic and the volume of traffic — both on foot and in vehicles — was overwhelming.
“ It was picture perfect. The kind of weather that any event like this needs,” he added.
Rodway said the folk festival was a smashing success, many of the roughly 75 vendors sold out, and community groups raised a considerable amount of money on ticket draws, meals and other events.
Rodway said the low prices — $2 for a two-day pass — and the familyoriented atmosphere continues set the festival apart from the rest. It didn’t hurt that so many people left with their bellies swollen with blueberry tarts, pies and other tasty treats, Rodway said.
But like any event of this size, Rodway admitted there were some glitches. The most notable was at the admission gate.
“ We didn’t have enough people on the gate,” he said. “ We simply weren’t prepared for the volume of people coming at one time”
He said there were long line-ups, with up to 150 waiting to enter the field area at times. He said the issue will be addressed for next year’s event, which is scheduled for Aug. 11-14, 2011.
He noted that officials with the Avalon North Tourism Association played a big role in speeding the admission process by assisting visitors with their wristbands.
“ They were very polite and professional, and a great asset,” Rodway stated.
Rodway said there were also several “incidents” at the beer tent, but he had high praise for the RCMP and members of the Avalon North Wolverines for their roles in enforcing the laws and managing the traffic.
He said vehicle parking remains a shortcoming, and many people likely stayed away because of the congestion. But he noted the bus shuttle service seemed to work well.
“ This year we were that busy we didn’t get our signs on the TransCanada Highway to direct people to the festival. Well, maybe that was a good thing because we were full,” said Rodway.
The festival’s future remains bright, he noted, and people have already inquired about booking booth space for 2011.
“I had thought a few years ago we had reached a plateau. But it seems like we’re now on the increase again,” he said. firstname.lastname@example.org The following is a list of contest winners from the 2010 Brigus Blueberry festival
• Loonie dash — Pearl Williams of Brigus;
• Out-of-province guest draw — Vanessa Walsh of Waterloo , Ont.;
• Draw winners — Darrell Rixon, Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s; Marie O’Dea, St. John’s; Pam Rixon, Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s; Derrick Piercey, Roaches Line;
• Missed Blueberry Festival Pageant winner — Missed Gopher (Nathan Barnes, Flatrock);
• Pie eating champion — Gary Fagan, South River
Zachary Hearn of St. John’s playing Ring Toss.