The 38th Annual Wilton Blueberry Festival takes place on Friday, Aug. 6, and Saturday, Aug. 7. Organizers said this year is unique because downtown Wilton was bustling with people and events the whole day. Kay Neufeld/Franklin Journal

WILTON — Amid a bucket of uncertainty due to the pandemic and planning limitations, The Wilton Blueberry Festival returned for the first time since 2019 on Friday, Aug. 6 and Saturday, Aug. 7.

Townspeople were eager to reunite for one of the first times since the start of the pandemic and celebrate what makes Wilton special.

The odds were stacked against the planners — Town Manager Rhonda Irish, Selectperson Tom Saviello, business owner Jeff Chaisson and Franklin Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Scott Lavertu, among others.

The festival had originally been canceled by the Wilton Blueberry Festival Board of Directors because of COVID-19 safety restrictions.

“We’re damned if we do, damned if we don’t,” former Chairwoman Shannon Chase Smith said at the time.

But just days later, the CDC announced a change in guidelines that made hosting a festival possible.


In under two months, organizers arranged a pared down version of festivities: a parade with only three prizes, a bounce house village at Kineowatha, a scaled up iteration of Wilton’s weekly farmer’s market, live music, a blueberry-pie eating contest and more. The activities of the day were sandwiched between two showstoppers: the parade to start the day and fireworks to end it.

The parade route at the 38th Annual Wilton Blueberry Festival is lined with families and townspeople on Saturday, Aug. 7. Selectperson Tom Saviello suspects it was the most packed iteration of the festival, yet. Kay Neufeld/Franklin Journal

Festival goers were eager to see the parade.

Jen Galouch, of New Sharon, said she was excited “to be out of the house, socializing, outside doing something,” with her son.

“It’s good to see crowds again,” Galouch said.

The Wilton Blueberry Festival parade, themed “Maine Today” was in fine form. There were dozens of floats decked out in trees and shrubbery, fishermen and kayakers, lobsters and wild turkeys.

Many different groups of Shriners attended the Wilton Blueberry Festival on their mini bikes, trucks and cars. One member said that the Shriners have been attending the Wilton Blueberry Festival for at least 20 years. Kay Neufeld/Franklin Journal

Shriners lined the streets, zooming around in mini cars, bikes and trucks, nearly appearing to hit each other but with skill and form passing by with ease.


Politics also made an appearance. Campaigns for Russell Black, the No CMP Corridor, Franklin County’s Democrats and Republicans all marched on by, some handing out candy. There were appearances by the Wilton Police Department, the Wilton Fire Department, and public safety departments from across Franklin County.

No CMP Corridor are among multiple political campaigns on both sides of the aisle that marched the Wilton Blueberry Festival parade on Saturday, Aug. 7. Kay Neufeld/Franklin Journal

“In my personal opinion, (this year’s festival) was the most crowded I had ever seen,” Saviello said. “I base that on the parade route…It was packed, all the way to the end of the parade. People wanted a place to go and we provided them a place to go.”

In the contest, judged by Select Board Chairperson David Leavitt, Selectperson Keith Swett and Irish, there were three winners. Franklin Savings Bank came in first, Skowhegan Savings Bank second and Farmington’s Thomas Performing Arts Center third.

Town Manager Rhonda Irish, Select Board Chairperson David Leavitt and Selectperson Keith Swett judge the Wilton Blueberry Festival Parade from atop the steps of the First Congregational Church on Saturday, Aug. 7. Kay Neufeld/Franklin Journal

Irish said Franklin Savings Bank took home the big win because “they did a really good job following the theme, their float was colorful, very Maine oriented.” Their float was covered in different kinds of trees, the Maine state flag, a light house and two life-sized lobsters.

Franklin Savings Bank took home first prize for its float in Saturday’s Wilton Blueberry Festival Parade. Judges from the Wilton Select Board deemed Franklin Savings’ float, laden with lobsters and many different kinds of trees, most fitting for  the theme “Maine Today.” Kay Neufeld/Franklin Journal

Skowhegan had a similar vibe, with various kinds of trees and Maine wildlife — owls, wild turkeys and beavers.

Irish said that the Thomas Performing Arts Center stood out because their float was accompanied by around 20 performers dancing to “Walking on Sunshine” by Katrina and the Waves.


Thomas Performing Arts Center took home third prize Saturday during the Wilton Blueberry Festival Parade. Dancers from the Farmington-based arts center danced to “Walking on Sunshine” by Katrina and the Waves. Kay Neufeld/Franklin Journal

Following the parade, downtown Wilton was vibrant with over 40 vendors, live music, axe throwing and good eats.

Saviello said that a thriving downtown made this year’s festival unique.

“In the past come about noon time, downtown empties out. (This year) I was watching people migrating downtown all day long,” Saviello said.

He noted that food events at the Wilton Lions Club, the Wilton First Congregational Church and St. Luke’s Episcopal Church all nearly sold out.

While the parade and events were fun opportunities, many Wilton residents relished in the festival’s ability to reunite townspeople after a year in isolation.

Brian Marble, a Wilton native, said that “I come to see all the people I know.”


Selectperson Tiffany Maiuri, who was greeted by familiar faces several times throughout our interview, said that the Wilton Blueberry Festival is special because “it’s the townspeople coming together to celebrate the roots of Maine, who we are.”

This year was also unique because it was organized and funded by the town. The Select Board directed $16,000 toward the festival and organizers raised an additional $8,000.

Saviello said this increased accessibility to the festival on multiple fronts: vendors did not have to pay the usual fee for a table and activities like the climbing wall were offered for free.

He suspects that the town will continue funding and running the festival in future years, though it all depends on what happens at the annual town meeting.

Saviello acknowledges the whole festival as “a super community effort.”

“This is about a group of people who took this thing and said we had to have a town celebration,” Saviello said. “I stepped into the minefield and everybody followed me after we cleared the path and we made it a success.”

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