The Blueberry Festival in Plymouth, Indiana is a must-see over Labor Day weekend. It was organized in 1966 by the Plymouth Jaycees to observe the country’s sesquicentennial. I doubt if they realized it would turn into a festival that would attract over 500,000 visitors over the four days – Friday through Sunday.
Okay, find a place to park. That’s the first hurdle. You might find a place near the city park where the festival is held. Most of the surrounding merchants allow free parking or some locals allow you to park for a slight fee. If not, there are lots of free parking places at the high school. It’s set up so you get a free wagon ride to the festival. Not at all bad and a short trip. Getting into the festival is free, too - just walk in. And then the fun begins.
If you go on Sunday, your first delight will be the tractor pull. Go around the corner near the front, you’ll hear the roar of the tractors. Look down in the hollow to your left and you’ll see them. They’re almost all locals, hoping to take home that big prize. There are families spread everywhere watching the fun, picnicking and eating.
Travel down the main road into the park to find lots of food vendors. Hot dogs, Chinese delicacies, pork chops cooked over open grills, Italian sausage, elephant ears, homemade root beer - the list goes on. Make your first stop at the turkey legs, you won’t be sorry. They’re cooked over an open fire and are yummy. Or stop at the big blueberry ice cream tent in the middle. Everyone loves the ice cream. You can get it scooped or shaken - on a cone, in a cup and almost any way you can imagine. They have blueberry everything - donuts, muffins, ice cream, and pies. After all, it’s the Blueberry Festival.
The festival organizer tent is on the right at the top of the hill. If you have problems, need medical attention or just want a leaflet with a Blueberry Festival map, this is the place to go. They’re friendly and knowledgeable.
Go down the hill toward the covered bridge, then over the bridge toward the right. Wind around through the trees and back into the “field” area to find the arts and crafts tents. There are tents as far as you can see. Most items are handmade. All of them have something for sale. Don’t worry if you get thirsty or hungry, there are food vendors sprinkled throughout. Something scrumptious is always near.
You’ll quickly choose your favorite festival tents. You might like the lady who makes vintage-looking clothes with lots of lace and ruffles, but in today’s styles; or the wagon that sells “band” tee shirts – they have it all Jimmy Hendricks to Pearl Jam; or the guy who creates yard art out of trees – totem poles, benches and such; or the group from Louisiana who makes soups and sauces – you can taste them right there and purchase packages for do-it-yourself.
If arts and crafts is not your thing, you might like the auto show and swap meet, complete with trophies. There’s the “Miss Blueberry” beauty pageant. There’s lots of scheduled entertainment. They have gospel music, dancers, a jazz band and a pie eating contest – blueberry, I’ll bet.
There’s the Blueberry Festival midway with amusement rides and carnival tents for those younger and young-at-heart. You can play games or ride the merry-go-round or tilt-a-whirl. Have a go at the bumper cars if you want to stay earth-bound. Or soar over the park on swings. On a hot day, the air feels good up there.
There are plenty of sports activities - softball tournaments, tennis tournaments, arm wrestling contests, volleyball tournaments and cheerleading competitions. There’s a bicycle tour on Saturday. There’s also the Blueberry Stomp – the running activities. There’s a fun run and two competitions. Either join in the fun, or sit back and watch. Either way, you’re sure to have a good time.
The best part of the festival comes on Sunday evening. Right at dusk, everyone gathers on one of the grassy areas. Get there fairly early, take some chairs or a blanket and stake out your spot. Once you have your spot, run over and get some fair food. Then settle down for some excitement.
There in the field, is the “glow” followed by fireworks. If you’ve never experienced a glow, you’re in for a treat. They have as many as fourteen or fifteen hot air balloons at one time. They inflate on the hill in front of you in a semi-circle. Then, one-by-one, they light, then dim in rhythmic patterns. It’s awe-inspiring.
After the glow, you can lay back and take in one of the best fireworks displays in the state. They have pinwheels in stunning colors, spirals that twinkle as they fall to earth and explosions that look like rockets but end in glittery trails through the sky. It lasts for at least half an hour and ends with a gigantic finale. Plug your ears and enjoy.
Finding your way out and leaving Plymouth is easy. The park is right off the main highway and they have good traffic control.
If you need lodging, there’s lots of camping, bed and breakfasts and motels close by. If you need air transportation, try South Bend, Indiana or Chicago, Illinois.