Blueberries have countless health benefits, too many to list here, including a higher anti-oxidant content than any other fruit. One of the few truly blue foods, they tempt us with their unique sweet/sour tutti-frutti taste. Their versatility is legendary: divine unadorned off the bush, but perfect in or atop ice cream or cheesecake, in blintzes, crisps, cobblers, fools, buckles, grunts, slumps and puddings, or in spiced chilled soups. Wild blueberries are smaller and have more character, and wild huckleberries are a cousin that’s a challenge to find, sweeter and less blue. It’s these that will be celebrated at the Shawangunk Mountain Wild Blueberry & Huckleberry Festival on Saturday, August 13 in Ellenville.
Although the wild blueberry season was early this year, according to Janet McDonnell, executive secretary for the Ellenville/Wawarsing Chamber of Commerce, there will be blueberry edibles available. Cohen’s Bakery has a “huge tent” full of goodies, says McDonnell, with tarts, pies, scones and turnovers. Other booths will offer a variety of baked goods, plus blueberry lemonade.
A pie contest will be judged by a few judges, to include Marc Fried, author of The Huckleberry Pickers: A Raucous History of the Shawangunk Mountains (2003) and Shawangunk: Adventure, Exploration, History and Epiphany from a Mountain Wilderness (North Country Books, 1998), among others, and an original founder of the Festival. Pickles the Clown will offer comedic magic for kids of all ages, and music on two stages will include Rich Bala, alone and with the Barefoot Boys, Cleoma’s Ghost and the Carl Richards Band, as well as famed Latin jazz outfit Soñando, playing the Festival for the first time. For the kids there will be booths selling toys, a climbing wall, face-painting and games. Crafts vendors and an art show and sale will be part of the fun as well.
The Festival runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., but will be preceded by a blueberry pancake breakfast at 7:30 a.m. hosted by the Pioneer Engine Company.
Turning our attention from blue fruit to yellow veggie, we look at corn: the focus of the 31st annual Hurley Heritage Corn Festival the following Saturday, August 20. Corn kernels have been found in Mexico that date back thousands of years before Columbus’ arrival. Native to this continent and a sacred foodstuff to the native peoples, corn is deeply embedded in their mythology: Along with beans and squash, it’s one of the “three sisters” that were planted together, deified and fundamental to their diet. This essence of summer is perfection simply boiled and dressed with salt, pepper and a pat of butter, but it’s also great grilled, or made into salsas, salads, fritters and many other savory dishes.
The Corn Festival will take place at the Hurley Reformed Church at 11 Main Street, near a row of Hurley’s famed stone houses. The festivities include a corn-cooking contest – traditionally limited to one kind of corn preparation, such as muffins or chowder, says Eric Fiore, co-chair of the event along with Alan Dumas, but this year anything goes. Judges will include board members and/or cooking demonstrators. The cooking demos will be provided by Bruce Paley of the Bowery Dugout plus another one. You can listen to the Cajun music of Cleoma’s Ghost, learn how to make a cornhusk wreath, talk to Revolutionary Era soldiers and wander through a corn maze.
The cornfest is run by the Hurley Heritage Society “for the community,” says Fiore. It’s the big event of the year, intended to honor Hurley’s agricultural traditions. Proceeds will help sustain the Society, which, after an eight-year process, was recently accredited as a New York State Museum. Admission is $3; children under age 7 get in free.
So whether blueberries, corn or both, celebrate August bounty with a festival!