Even with more than 200 blueberry pies available for sale, there still were not enough to go around this year at ’s sixth annual Blueberry Festival.
The festival, held July 30, had the highest turnout ever in its six years.
Thirteen-year church member Rachel Bird, who has organized the festival since its inception, said, “Last year, it was a big turnout, but this year there is an exceptionally big turnout.”
In fact, all the pies sold out several hours before the festival was to end.
The event was a family affair with baked goods for sale, vendors, food, and entertainment. Proceeds from the event will go to the church’s outreach and children’s mission programs.
“The money is going to people in need in the greater Trumbull area, throughout the U.S., and the world,” said Bird, who ran the event this year with the help of co-chair Jack Brunt.
The festival began as solely an in-house event: an ice cream party its organizers called Blueberry Sunday, where church members made their own blueberry ice cream sundaes.
The next year, Bird said, “We decided we wanted to share it with our friends.” And a tradition was born.
This year, the festival had its second silent auction, which managed to be twice as large as last year’s, and featured New York Yankees tickets, Bed and Breakfast packages, and gift certificates to Massage Works, Fairfield Italian restaurant Avellino’s, and Sherwood Farms.
In addition to the auction and the sold out pies, blueberry muffins, scones, coffee cakes, crisps, and cookies were all prepared fresh and sold throughout the day.
Jennifer and Jessica Lanza, sisters and members of the church, did their part by selling homemade pierogies to hungry festival goers. “It’s been awesome,” said Jennifer. “People have been great. Very friendly,” added her sister.
Brunt, who is also a member of the Church Board of Trustees, said that because the country is so desperate economically, events like the Blueberry Festival that have the potential to raise a lot of money are very important.
Long Hill, like all Methodist churches, contributes its charitable profits to UMCOR, the United Methodist Committee on Relief, which then allocates the money in areas “where there is a continuous need.”
“In this economy, it’s very difficult for people to give and events like this give people a chance to give more,” added Bird.
Other fundraising events for the day included a blueberry pancake breakfast, while the Blueberry Grille served hot dogs and pulled pork sandwiches for lunch, and the Blueberry Café offered up wraps and salads.
For some welcome entertainment, children from the Trumbull Musical Theatre Camp, which meets at the church, performed a Broadway revue.
At the camp run by teacher and performer Peter Randazzo and his wife Karen, a writer and director, kids spend two weeks learning to sing, dance, and act.
“We’re happy to provide some entertainment for the Blueberry Festival. It helps bring in people too, so that’s good,” said Peter Randazzo of Trumbull, who also gives private piano and voice lessons.
Inside the church sanctuary, members of the Connecticut Piecemakers, a state quilt guild, displayed a collection of 43 handmade quilts.
Guild member Joan Hughes contributed seven quilts to the exhibition. While she admitted the quilts took her a long time to make, “If it doesn’t take any time, it’s probably not something we’d want to see in the show anyway,” she said, laughing.
Inside the church, volunteers sold jams, jellies, candles, assorted gift baskets, and even blueberry dog biscuits, which Bird made herself.
Independent vendors sold crafts, soaps, and jewelry; outside, there was face painting and arts and crafts for the children, a flower sale, and a farmer’s market.
And at the blueberry sundae ice cream parlor, where the festival first began, Darlene and Dave Manson, who were married at Long Hill in 1978, sat enjoying ice cream and conversation with their family.
Multiple generations of Mansons were there for the day: Dave’s mother, Olga C. Manson, now 91 years old, was also married at the church and has been a member for over 70 years.
“Our only disappointment was that we got here after the pies ran out,” said Darlene Manson. But as she sat there smiling, surrounded by family, it really didn’t seem to matter.