Goshen battles rival for top blueberry billing

MONTPELIER — Lawmakers are used to having Statehouse smack-downs over resources, committee assignments and leadership positions.
But over blueberry bragging rights?
Actually, you can call it a friendly food fight, strictly tongue-in-cheek, pitting the Deerfield Valley against tiny Goshen.
It’s a little comic relief amid the chaos of more pressing financial issues during the waning days of the 2010 legislative session.
It all began when Rep. Ann Manwaring, D-Wilmington, offered a resolution designating the Deerfield Valley as the “Blueberry Capital of Vermont.” The resolution, Manwaring explained, was intended to give recognition — and an extra little boost — to the annual Deerfield Valley Blueberry Festival.
“It’s been very successful,” Manwaring said of the 10-day extravaganza, spearheaded by the Boyd Family Farm in Wilmington. The event — listed as one of the top 10 events in the state by the Vermont Chamber of Commerce — has grown to include a block party and antique car auction, among other things.
“Basically, it’s a festival where we celebrate everything blue,” Manwaring said. “We turned it into a ton of fun.”
The resolution caught the eye of Rep. Willem Jewett, D-Ripton, whose district includes Goshen. Jewett noted the prevalence of wild blueberries in Goshen, including one of the country’s few designated “blueberry management areas,” in the Moosalamoo National Recreation Area.
Believing Goshen’s berries deserved at least equal ranking, Jewett somewhat playfully spearheaded a resolution of his own, recognizing “the town of Goshen and the Blueberry Management Area in the Moosalamoo National Recreation Area as the Wild Blueberry Capital of Vermont.”
Jewett acknowledged the fun side of the Deerfield Valley-Goshen “blueberry war,” but he added there is some underlying exposure/economic development value to resolutions that tout special features in communities.
“If (Goshen) decided to have a blueberry festival, this can be very important,” he said, adding legislative designations can help “support a sense of community.”
Jewett’s resolution is definitely intended to generate some chuckles, though. It reads, part:
“Whereas, the general assembly never meant to slight the town of Goshen, or the Moosalamoo National Recreation Area, when it hastily designated the Deerfield Valley as Vermont’s Blueberry Capital without first dispatching qualified horticultural experts to verify the veracity of this claim, and
“Whereas, now remorseful that it unintentionally roused a sense of perplexity and disbelief among the good citizens of Goshen, the general assembly realizes that blueberry supremacy in Vermont is a distinction with more than one rightful claimant.”
Blueberry boosters from the Deerfield Valley and Goshen were scheduled to showcase their communities’ fruitful bounties at the Statehouse late last week.
Both resolutions were expected to easily get final approval.
Tony Clark, owner of the Blueberry Hill Inn in Goshen, said wild blueberry season will begin as early as late June. The wild berries in Moosalamoo continue to be a very big draw.
“Picking wild berries is a real dedication,” he said, noting that wild plots are tougher to access than those that are cultivated.
Clark does not anticipate the resolution will bring additional flocks of tourists to Goshen, but it won’t hurt.
“I think this is a matter of the Legislature having a little fun,” he said.
Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com.

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