It was all about the blueberries on Aug. 4 and 5 in Montrose, as Susquehanna County residents flocked to the annual Blueberry Festival held on the Village Green between the county courthouse, United Fire Company, and the Susquehanna County Historical Society Museum. Celebrated as the first book buyers of the day by cashiers (above, from right) Bruce Baessler and Maureen Hoover were (from left) Ashley Lane, Amy Paolucci, and Virginia Peese.
Story and photos by Rick Hiduk
(originally published in the Susquehanna County Independent)
Business was brisk at the breakfast tent on the Village Green in Montrose on Friday morning. Hundreds of people began lining up more than a half hour early for the pancake and sausage meal that serves as the traditional kickoff for the annual Blueberry Festival. Spanning Aug. 4 and 5, the event is revered by returning attendees and an army of volunteers who support the Susquehanna County Historical Society and Free Library Association (SCHS&FLA).
Many of those accompanied by family and friends were also involved with preparation for the Festival, including Tom Follert (above, left), who helped erect the tents for the ever-popular book sale and assisted with the set-up for the white elephant sale (below) held in the bays of the United Fire Company just across Monument Street. He ate breakfast with his sons, Ben and Vince.
Montrose residents Mary Torney and Norma Orner had made the blueberry buckle cake being sold just a few tents away from where they sat, as they enjoyed breakfast and the sight of the growing opening-day crowds. Torney cited the large variety of food as being one of her favorite aspects of the event.
In addition to those who attend every year, there are those like Katie Starzec (below, right) who found her way back to the Festival after moving away from the area 20 years ago. She and her son, Michael, were joined by Katie’s parents, Jean and Ed Starzec of Tunkhannock, long-time friend Sarah Reese, and Sarah’s daughter, Sophia. After breakfast, they were anxious to try out some of the new games for children and hoping to find blueberry ice cream.
“We used to come here together as children,” Reese related. “I was Newberry the Blueberry one year,” she added, in reference to a costumed character with a broad blue grin who is still active on both days of the Festival.
Bonnie Yuscavage, curator of the Susquehanna County Museum, noted that Newberry’s name stems from a prestigious award given by the Association for Library Service to Children, and the character gets lots of hugs from admiring youths.
Every book tent was filled with patrons seeking tomes in a variety of genres to inexpensively add to their collections. Andrew Bledsloe of Brooklyn (above) guided his sons through the children’s games area while his wife, Amanda perused the literary offers. Similarly, Adam Kavka of Retta watched his boys, Miles and Reese play around the Civil War memorial statue while his wife, Kara, did the same. In addition to finding some children’s books suitable for her son, she looked for natural history books and other texts that she could add to the library at Thrive Academy in Tunkhannock, where she serves as executive director.
Literacy and history walk hand-in-hand during the Festival, as the Museum and all of the libraries in the Susquehanna County Library system. “We are one organization,” Blueberry Festival chairman said about the SCHS&FLA, the Board of Trustees of which he is currently president. He admits that the title of the organization is a bit unwieldy, but the library and museum once shared the building on Monument Street in which the museum still operates, and the two entities continue to operate in tandem.
“They have worked hard to present welcoming places to serve the entire county,” Spero (above) said of the staff and volunteers. “Our representation allows us to say, ‘I’m from the Library or Museum, and we need your help, and people readily agree.”
“We always hear about the Historical Society and Library,” Trehab representative Renee Welch said of the Association’s success of staying in the public eye. “I’ve been coming here since I was a little girl. It’s such a tradition.”
Rick and Janet Price (above) live in Washington, D.C., and have a summer home at Heart Lake. They make sure to plan some time in Susquehanna County to attend the Blueberry Festival which, they suggested, has a Norman Rockwell ambiance. “It’s small town USA,” Rick remarked. “It’s got all the charm and appeal you could hope for in today’s society.”
“I like seeing old friends,” said Samantha Edwards of Montrose, who was helping staff the children’s book tent with Tyler Technologies co-worker Britney Darrow. “I’ve already met people today that I haven’t seen in 20 years.”
“I like the way it brings the whole community together,” said Trehab associate Elizabeth Delaney (above, left) of Susquehanna.
“I cannot say enough about the volunteers,” Spero stated. “Last year’s success helped us increase employee salaries and meet state mandates by buying the right amount of books for the Library.”
Additional Photos by Rick Hiduk
Anne Lathrop (left) and Brian Wade were selling blueberry muffins.
Sharing duties at the children’s book tent were Samantha Edwards of Montrose and Britney Darrow, a transplant to New Milford from Alaska. Both used to work in the county assessment office and volunteered this year on behalf of Tyler Technologies.
Penn State Extension representative Sarah Welch (right) got co-worker Laice Varnum to her first Blueberry Festival.