Wilton Blueberry Festival parade expected to draw 10,000

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WILTON – Organizing a two-day, action-packed festival that includes a 96-entry parade (that’s not counting the fire trucks) with an expected crowd of 10,000 coming to town, isn’t easy.

Shannon Smith knows all about it.

Smith, the veteran organizer of 26 Wilton Blueberry Festivals, is running in every direction with just two days to go until the marathon start of events that begin 9 a.m. Friday through to Saturday’s fireworks after dusk.

Shannon Smith

“It’s not dull being chair of a festival,” Smith said joking. “I love every minute of it.”

Every minute is a good way to think about it. Smith was up and out the door at 4 a.m. this morning for a 7 a.m. interview on Fox 23TV. In between calls from the police about traffic needs and another call confirming Oakie, the Oakhurst Dairy acorn mascot will march in the parade, Smith had to make sure the order of 200 pounds of bananas for “Trunk Monkey” (who will also march in the parade), was all set.

A blueberry muffin rode in the parade last year.

“I’ve got to make sure all of the porta potties are lined up. And the radios and the golf carts too,” Smith said in an understandably hurried pace between more calls.

To be honored this year at the 26th Annual Blueberry Festival Aug. 1-2, are emergency medical technicians and firefighters. Smith has invited every department in Maine and even some not in Maine to join the parade line up.

“I’ve got a Brewster, N.Y. department coming,” Smith said. Just how many will show up, not even Smith knows. But it’s a good bet, as with everything else about this townwide event, Smith knows how to go big.

Nearly 100 craft tables will be filled with artisan wares at the Nichols Expo Center on Weld Road. The Wilton Free Library is also sponsoring its annual used book sale at the center and entertainment will play from the center’s stage throughout the two days. Country singer Debbie Myers headlines the event, beginning at 7:15 p.m. Food can be found wherever you go.

Meanwhile, on Main Street events include more sidewalk craft and food sales. Also on Main Street, many of the merchants and business owners have decorated their shop windows with displays centered on the EMT and firefighter theme. Furry critters reading books about firefighters and EMT’s are surrounded by bright flowering plants at Nancy Merrow’s building. The display was a collaboration of Rocky Hill Landscaping, Imelda’s Fabric & Design and the library. China Wall restaurant is celebrating the Olympics in China with flags, Wilton Printed Products is displaying historic Wilton photos and more.

Captain Blueberry attended last year’s parade.

The Blueberry Bazaar at the First Congregational Church is from 9-2 p.m., Open Forge Day and tours at the Wilton Historical Society, boat tours on Wilson Lake and at Kineowatha Park, all kinds of activities for children.

Temple artist Jeanne Bruce will lead a community clay exploration project at the Foothills Arts Center from 1-4 p.m. as part of the Wilton Blueberry Festival. People of all ages are invited to stop in and play with clay. As each group leaves, their creation will be returned to the hill of clay for others to experience. It’s free; however, donations would be appreciated to support the Foothills Arts Center’s new programs for adults and children.

A one mile youth race starts at 6 p.m. and a 10K race will start at 6:30 p.m.

And that’s just Friday.

On Saturday, the Wilton Lions Club serves up their annual blueberry pancakes and more from 6-10 a.m. in the village center. Parade line up begins at 7 a.m. at the Nichols Expo Center. Don’t be late because Weld Road will be closed to traffic for the 9 a.m. start of what must be the longest parade in the state. $1,000 in prizes will be awarded for various parade entry categories. A bike and doll carriage parade starts on Main Street at 8:30 a.m. and precedes the big parade.

New this year is a baby and toddler derby race at Kineowatha Park starting at noon. There’s no entry fee to race. And there’s no entry fee in either the blueberry bake-off or chili tasting contests. Drop off your best effort by 1 p.m. at the Nichols Expo Center. Judging at 1:30 p.m. for both. At 6:30 p.m. the biggest parade of boats held yet will ride around the lake and then fireworks ignite after dusk. For a complete listing of events, go to the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce at: franklincountymaine.org

Smith said she needs volunteers to help sell the festival’s T-shirts. If you can, call her at 778-4726. And don’t be surprised if her line is busy, just try again.

“I love it. It’s my life. I have a mission,” Smith said of the festival before running off to check on more things.

Wilton is ready for the 26th Annual Blueberry Festival on Friday and Saturday.

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