WINSLOW — As organizers at the Winslow Congregational Church prepare for the 50th celebration of the annual Blueberry Festival this weekend, a mystery about the event’s history has finally been solved.

The official event is scheduled for Saturday, though pre-orders are available on Friday for several items. Festivities kick off with a blueberry pancake breakfast on Saturday beginning from 7 to 10 a.m. The cost for the breakfast is $7 per person and $5 for children 12 and under. The festival will go until 1 p.m. at the Winslow Congregational Church at 12 Lithgow St.

Other festival events will be held Friday with a Chicken Bar-B-Q Supper, served by the Clinton Fire Department, from 4 to 7 p.m. at the church. The cost of dinner is $12 per person.

Joyce Rushton, historian at the church, recently acquired information on how the event came from an idea pitched by a woman named Patricia Johnson, who brought the idea of a “summer festival” up during a church council meeting in 1972.

Initially, John Houston was thought to be the one to pitch the idea of the festival; however, after historians at the church learned more through documents and conversations with families, they realized that their version of the event’s history was not incorrect, but incomplete.

Johnson’s idea came to life in 1972 with the first Blueberry Festival; she hand-picked the blueberries with her uncle in South Paris that year.

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Houston decided in 1988 to start donating blueberries from a family farm in Bucksport to be used for the festival and this tradition has been continuous. Between 1972 and 1977, the church paid for the fruit.

Previous reporting reflects that when Houston died in 2000, an oral discussion was agreed on to continue providing blueberries from the family farm to the festival every year.

Both of their legacies live on, Rushmore said, noting that the longtime traditions of cleaning the blueberries by hand using a wooden chute made by another member of the church named Leon Duff. The berries pass two to three inspectors in this makeshift production line before being made into filling to be added to the pies. The production and baking of pies happen the day before the festival at Winslow Junior High School, where about 48 pies can be made at a time.

This year, she added, the group of volunteers is expected to clean around 625 pounds of blueberries; according to the event’s website, organizers are anticipating serving around 700 blueberry pies and “all things blueberry.”

Pies are for sale for $12 each or $20 for 2 and can be picked up from 3 to 6 p.m. on Friday or during the festival on Saturday. Offering pre-sales was in response to the pandemic, said David Beas, an organizer of the festival, but said that this has also been an easier and more profitable way of selling products.

Other items are also included on the schedule, including a Lobster Shore Dinner Raffle, live music, local craft vendors, a yard sale, and an agricultural exhibit. A dunk tank will also be set up, with proceeds to benefit the Winslow Community Cupboard.

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