The Wilton Blueberry Festival grew from the Wilton Congregational Church’s blueberry bazaar fundraiser. Blueberry cake seen being served by Nancy Cureton in 2019 is one of the church’s longstanding traditions. Livermore Falls Advertiser file photo

WILTON — Some Wilton Blueberry Festival activities the Wilton Congregational Church has become known for have been changed or won’t be happening this year.

The annual chicken barbecue will be held 4-6 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 7, instead of Friday night. It will be served take-out style with no tickets sold ahead of time. Half a chicken, coleslaw, roll and blueberry cake will be available for $11. There will be no quarter chicken option.

Traditionally the barbecue has been held on Friday evening as either a sit-down meal or take-out. Take-out only was chosen by church leaders because of continuing concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.

The church thrift shop will also be open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday. It will not be open Friday, another break from tradition.

The raffle and blueberry cake with coffee or lemonade won’t be available this year, nor the hot dogs, finger rolls, beverages, baked goods, crafts and Rada products. Blueberries, vegetables and flower bouquets have also been cut.

The church held no activities last year because of COVID-19. The Wilton Blueberry Festival was initially canceled this year because of the pandemic.

The church’s annual blueberry bazaar fundraiser grew, became so popular that the town decided to add onto it, Peggy Hodgkins, a church member and Wilton resident said Wednesday morning, July 21. In 1961 or 1962, a dressed up hay wagon from which things were sold was put outside the church, she said.

“Every year it grew, improved,” Hodgkins said. “The women’s fellowship was very active then.”

One example was the cookie walk. At first, cookies were sold in baggies, she said.

“Marcelyn Farnum started saving coffee cans and painting them,” Hodgkins said. “People went crazy for them, saved them and used them in their homes.”

A self-professed cookie freak who ‘loves cookies,’ Hodgkins got involved.

“Hodgkins made hundreds of cookies for it, had a full freezer,” fellow church member Judy Upham said Tuesday evening, July 20. “The kids loved it.” She spoke of a can painted with blueberries Farnum had painted and one with chickadees painted by Maxine Ryan that are in her home today.

“My family teases me about the times I’d make cookies and they couldn’t eat any,” Hodgkins said. “The numbers became atrocious. One year I baked 120 dozen.”

The cookie walk became so popular that several people were needed to man it, she said.

Helen Colburn took over after Farnum died, then Pam Brown took it on, Hodgkins said. Brown had a studio in the former Bass building next to Wilson Lake at the time, she noted.

“Pam would put the base coat on, then others would paint blueberry sprigs, flowers or other things on them,” Hodgkins said. “It was an unknown assumption that everybody would do something. Bake blueberry cakes for the coffee/lemonade and cakes, cookies for the walk, something for the baked goods table.”

The bazaar started as just a Friday thing, Upham said. For several years it was just the church, then the town decided it was so much fun they should expand it and do more things, she noted.

Most things done recently developed from those early fundraisers, Upham said. Bouquets of cut flowers added to the berry sales is one example, she noted.

Some things were scaled back when fewer members were available to help, Hodgkins said.

Wilton Congregational Church will hold its annual chicken barbecue 4-6 p.m. Saturday, Aug 7. It will be take-out style with no tickets sold in advance. Judy Upham is seen at left selling tickets in 2019. Bouquets made by Upham and other church members can be seen in the background. Livermore Falls Advertiser file photo

“We sold a ton of blueberries, wild ones too,” Upham noted. “John Cureton donated blueberries he had paid for.”

The women’s fellowship was active, had lots of crafts to sell, Upham said. They made sure there was a quilt made for the raffle, she noted. There was a white elephant table prior to the rummage sales, she added.

“I did games for kids, face painting, had an obstacle course on the front lawn,” Upham said. “Things now done at Kineowatha. Vendors on the lawn cramped our style on doing that kind of thing.”

Cureton made bird houses and berry basket holders, she noted. He helped the Sunday school make mason bee houses, bird feeders and berry basket holders. Olivia Schank painted flowers on the tops of the holders, she loved that, Upham said.

“It’s been a nice evolution,” Hodgkins said.

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