WILTON – The phone started ringing in Shannon Smith’s house at 6 a.m. Monday.

By 1 p.m., she’d had 32 calls and 64 e-mails – all about this weekend’s 24th annual Wilton Blueberry Festival.

Folks in town and nearby are gearing up for an influx of 15,000 visitors this weekend. People come to shop, to eat, to connect with friends, and to generally enjoy one of the last weekends in summer, festival organizer Smith said.

Area motels and hotels are booked up, and have been for months, she added. Melissa Fogg, of the Mount Blue Motel in Farmington, said she’s only got one room left for Saturday night.

Cooks, bakers and blueberry farmers are gearing up for a week-long cook fest: For the gastronomically inclined, there’ll be blueberry pie, maple syrup, blueberry pancakes, cakes, cobblers, and muffins, fudge, blueberry popcorn and a chili-tasting contest.

Jan Collins, who owns the Wilton Blueberry Farm with husband Irving Faunce, said Monday most of the people who are cooking blueberry dishes for the festival came and picked them last week. “You can put on a few pounds over the weekend from the blueberries they picked,” she said.

While early-August isn’t peak season for blueberries, the farm is doing more business than usual this week because of the festival, Collins said. “We did 500 pounds (of business) yesterday, and more today,” she said. “To me it’s a lot.”

Scores of groups from around Franklin County plan to be part of the festival in one way or another. The Heathy Community Coalition is running a blood drive. Churches and clubs are hosting breakfasts, lunches and suppers.

The Franklin County Chamber of Commerce is having a fundraiser. For every dollar you give, you get to put someone you know in a portable jail for one minute. It’s meant all in fun, said Chamber Executive Director Lorna Nichols.

With $30,000, most of it raised through T-shirt sales and craft show entry fees, Smith has hired performers who will do shows in the Nichols Expo Center. She and her helpers have organized a parade, a road race, a Coke bottle race and a rock climbing and Bungee jumping area.

Since the theme this year revolves around supporting law enforcement, she’s also found more than 70 police units from around the state to take part in the parade. There will be a pipe-and-drum regiment, Hummers, a canine unit and cops on bikes.

Crafters, artists and vendors will also be there. For history buffs, there will be an antique tractor pull, an open forge and a living history encampment on Harris field.

Smith said she works for more than a year on each festival. “I’m already working on 2007,” she said. “It’s never not worked on.”

And it’s all to celebrate the community, she said. “It’s just to bring people together. To showboat Wilton, Maine.”


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