National Blueberry Festival has been winning hearts in South West Michigan since 1963.
Let’s just put that in perspective, in 1963:
Not as popular as Bosco, but 100 times the fun, the National Blueberry Festival has continued as a treasured tradition, valuing families, farms, fun, hospitality, excellence and fiscal responsibility. As such, it has brought the party to South Haven for over half a century!
During the off season, the team of about 40 pours energy into planning a spectacular event! The hospitality crew discusses how to serve the widest range of the public in order to provide a smooth experience for all. The event leaders perfect their methods to host an exciting itinerary of elaborate activities!
It’s at this time that fundraising takes a center stage as the festival has grown into the most popular event in South Haven. Business donations, public donations, and additional fundraising events such as Fish Fling (Icebreakers) and the Golf Outing (Memorial Sunday) are hard at work to bring in the dollars needed for this 4 day festival:
That is an incredible amount of donated human and financial resources….Why?
What is it about the National Blueberry Festival, that so many people give so much to make sure it happens every year?
The National Blueberry Festival is much more than just a cool event. We celebrate more than blueberries, we celebrate life!
The older we get the more we realize how short life is; we understand that true happiness comes from deep connected relationships, gratitude, and giving back to the world. Modern society is catching on to the truth that communities need more than economic opportunities, they need opportunities to identify with their unique cultures, for rejuvenation, social connection, and belonging.
It doesn’t take all year, to put a schedule of fun events together. The hard work comes in the careful crafting of shared common experiences that positively impact our communities. The sweat is in the balance of bringing new exciting spaces, and keeping traditional familiar ones. Yes, the work is in understanding that hosting a 4 day festival can accomplish great things for society by enhancing opportunity for the following:
9:00AM - 2:00 PM on Thursday August 8th!
Get your stamp book/map and bucket and visit select blueberry farms to see all the amazing aspects of the blueberry industry. Enjoy meeting a few farm owners, playing in the fields, and maybe even picking a few tasty morsels! If you visit half the farms, enjoy a free slice of blueberry pie at the Blueberry Pie and Icecream Social that evening.
Three starting locations for your direction of travel!
South Haven: festival office 1301 M43 Highway
Starting from the north: Bowerman Blueberries Farm Market 15793 James St Holland, MI
Starting from the east: Brookside Farms 34448 44th Ave Paw Paw, MI
Sponsored by Fleming Brothers Oil Company and Value Market Convenience Stores!
Stop at any of the Value Market Convenience Stores along the way for fuel and food!
This year’s Blueberry Pie Eating Contest is going to be a real smash! Excitement around South Haven’s 150th celebration has seeped into the Adult Pie Eating Contest in a way you won’t expect: A Costume Party! Whether you bought a dress for the Chamber’s Gone with the Wind dinner, or you feel like being a blueberry, any (family appropriate) costume is a GO for this fun and quirky event. And trust us, you definitely want the bragging rights that come with the winner's sash.
For the Kids Pie Eating Contest you can expect amazing rounds that go from ages 5 to 12. Every participant gets goodies, and winners get a super cool prize from McDonald's!
Need to Knows for the Kids Pie Eating Contest:
Date: Saturday August 10th
Location: Riverfront Park
Categories: Various Ages 5 through 12
Need to Knows for the Adult Pie Eating Contest:
Date: Saturday August 10th
Entrance Fee: $10
It is split into two categories - Middle School/High School; and Post High School.
Any adult wearing a costume gets a 5 second head start to eat their pie. Now, if you have ever witnessed our Pie Eating Contest, you know what a difference a few seconds can make!
Winners of each Adult category get a beautiful, brag sash!
Additional Awards for "Best Costume", and "Crowd Favorite!"
Sponsored by: Golden Brown Bakery, McDonald's and True Blue Farms
Golden Brown Baker, McDonalds Restaurants of South Haven and Bangor, and True Blue Farms team up to get contestants delicious pies to sink their face into. The very berries used in the pies are ripening on the bushes of the fields of True Blue Farms. And the week of the festival, South Haven’s iconic bakery will be turning up the heat on these competitive little pies. Last year we calculated that the Bakery donates enough pies to fill half a basketball court!
McDonald's flips the bill, and provides all the give-aways and prizes during this signature event!
We want to say a sincere thank you to both True Blue Farms, McDonald's and Golden Brown Bakery! We could not do this with out them! Their generosity truly warms our hearts and fuels or events. Thank you so much!
The National Blueberry Festival is taking on sustainability and starting on the journey of responsible festival operation. We’re partnering with our sponsor, Monte Package Company, to provide a variety of opportunities to ‘go green’ throughout this year’s festival. When you see the Monte Package Company logo that’s your sign that there is an opportunity to lessen your carbon footprint and go green, one act at a time.
Opportunities to Go Green in 2019:
Recycling: For the first time at the National Blueberry Festival, we are proud to offer plastic container recycling. Look out for our green recycling bins near trash receptacles at most of our 10 festival sites.
Water Bottle Fill-Up Stations:There are drinking fountains at each of the brick and mortar restroom locations listed on the map. Please feel free to utilize these to grab a drink or fill up your reusable water bottle!
Transportation: Take advantage of our trolley shuttle for free off-site parking and avoid traffic downtown. Carpool with a friend. Ride a bike to town and secure your bike at the Huron St. Parking area. Walk from site to site to take-in all that Blueberry Fest has to offer. There are many ways to ‘go green’ this year!
Sponsored by Monte Package Company!
Huge thanks to Monte Package Company who is making this project happen! We appreciate them putting their values of sustainability into practice and flipping the bill for this new endeavor. When you see the Monte logo - you can take advantage of an opportunity to do an act of green, because at the National Blueberry Festival, Blue is the new Green.
South Haven is turning 150 and we are celebrating! A celebration like this only comes once, so National Blueberry Festival is pulling out the stops to highlight the 150th Anniversary during our city wide activities August 8th - 11th. The 150th theme bolsters our classic events by way of costumes, float decorations, and walks down memory lane:
But that’s not all:
The nightly Mainstage Ceremonies will put the spotlight on South Haven, as we entertain with stories of the past. Thursday Night’s Opening Ceremonies will take a fun look at the years of farming and farm culture in the area. MBG Marketing - The Blueberry People, sponsor that night’s entertainment and kick off the weekend providing the high energy band - Blue Water Kings!
During Friday’s Ceremonies, crowds can enjoy a splash of the past as the South Haven Yacht Club’s Patrick and Tara Miller share stories of the past, present and future of the local boating industry. Established in 1939, this iconic part of South Haven has provided a home to many a sun soaked boater, and a few tugs and freighters before that. Just to show you how far back we are talking, the first club fees were only $10 a year! Entergy then hits us up with a stunning show from Slim Gypsy Band, followed by The Dweebs!
Clementine’s Blueberry Blow Out:
Throughout all three throwback nights, Clementine’s will be providing excitement by shooting off 150 ping pong balls out of a canon (provided by Stoke’s Blueberries)!
Each night, five lucky people will catch the winning ball and receive a free stack of onion rings redeemable at Clementine’s restaurant!
Brothers of the Brush:
Saturday night ceremonies host our 150th Grand Finale - the Brothers of the Brush Unite! This beard competition, yes you heard that right, will be held on the Mainstage during the 7pm music break!
No registration is necessary, just some preparation on your part...namely - growing a beard!! Grow the best beard and receive a trophy signed by a few of the original Brother’s of the Brush. Or present the best false beard and win that category. Or enter your mustache, side burns, or eye-brows into the Freestyle category!
How does this all fit in? At South Haven’s 100th Anniversary, male celebration goers where required to have either a beard and a Brothers of the Brush pin on button, or a Shaving Permit button. If you had neither, the female Keystone Cops (shown here with Carole Renner, and children Debbie and Susie ) would literally put you in a jail cell where you would plead your case before the presiding judge! This was such a great memory, that 50 years later people are still talking about. So, we couldn’t resist the opportunity to unite the Brothers of the Brush!
To learn more about the Brothers of the Brush Unite competition click here, or follow our event on Facebook.
1. Food! With a weekend as wild and fun as this, it’s important to keep up your energy with frequent snacks, and breaks! Fleming Brothers Oil and Value Market Convenience Stores have you covered! They have donated enough goodies to curb the munchies of all of our 250 volunteers! Likewise, Biggby Coffee of South Haven has your back with beautiful muffins and doughnuts! Eat up!!
2. A Place to Hang - This year our Hospitality Team has organized a Volunteer Base as a place to get your delicious goodies, take a break in the air conditioning, and get to know other volunteers! It’s important to check in at the base before your shift to get any updates and let the leaders know you are here! They are counting on you! The Volunteer Base is at First United Methodist Church, and a huge thank you to them!
3. Festival T-shirt! This is your uniform to help mark you as one of us! This shirt can get you rides on golf carts, food, drink, and high fives! As one team, we want to look good in our signatures shirts!
4. Training! We want you to feel confident in your role making this festival happen. Here’s how you get the most knowledge before your shift:
Read the shift description as you sign up on Flipcause
Attend the Tailgating Kick Off party on June 24th
Attend the orientation July 29th at 6:30 at the Van Buren County Senior Center.
Come early to your shift, so that you can get checked in, read the onsite description, and receive a short briefing from the person you are relieving.
Likewise, pass on the knowledge you gained via briefing the next person, and in the notes section of the onsite material.
5. Coffee, Coffee, Coffee! Our director is an unashamed caffeine addict, so there is no hiding the fact that there will be a lot of coffee available! Huge thanks to Biggby Coffee of South Haven for donating over 20 gallons of ‘fuel’ for the festival.
6. Water! Ok, getting serious, we can not overemphasize the importance of staying hydrated and drinking liters of water while working at the festival. Culligan of Allegan has donated a water station for our volunteer base. Here you can get cold water in a cup - or help make blue the new green by bringing your favorite refillable water bottle! Thank you Culligan!
7. Blueberry Blimp! - Called a Blump! On Sunday August 11th at 2pm we are taking a giant volunteer photo from the sky! This is a fun, volunteer only event to highlight the team that is the Berry Best!
8. High expectations! We want to be market leaders in the art of hosting a festival. We expect all of our volunteers (as our staff team) to uphold professionalism, and customer courtesy. One way to do this, is to be sure you are having fun!
9. Weather! Let’s be honest, it’s the middle of August in Michigan. Plan for the heat by taking breaks between shifts and wearing lightweight clothing, and plan for the rain with your favorite water-proof gear.
10. Thank Yous! In Fall, you can look forward to a Sponsor and Volunteer Thank You party called the Harvest Party! This is a special time to recognize your help in pulling off this amazing weekend for the community to enjoy. But let’s get a head start - Thank You so much for being part of our tribe!
One of the best parts of the National Blueberry Festival is its dependence on community. It takes strong teams of people to pull off South Haven’s biggest event every August. One such team is the Miss South Haven Court, and the Miss South Haven Scholarship Committee.
For the week of the festival the Miss South Haven Court takes on the title of the National Blueberry Festival Court and together with their fearless leaders help us run the show! No literally! They are everywhere! Here is a glimpse of their schedule during the festival:
Thursday: Run the Little Miss Blueberry Pageant & Community Opportunity
Friday: Wrangle kids at Meijer Kids Day, Special Appearances/Meet and Greet
Saturday: Pass out water at 5K Run/Walk, lead the DeGrandchamp Farms Parade, run the Kids and Adult Pie Eating Contest
Sunday: Pancake Breakfast Meet and Greet, Sand Castle Judging,Final Farewell & Photos
YIKS!!! And all while looking fabulous to represent our community with poise and dignity.
The partnership that has developed here is a very special one. As a festival, we are able to offer the court members an incredible experience being behind something so big. When the city is humming with crowds, the music is flowing, and the energy is pumping - the students are able to say - “we helped make this happen!” Likewise, the court offers us the honor of having these specially chosen youth showcasing our festival. They are not just a dependable group of students saying yes to parades and handing out water. They heartily agree to helping us out by sweating in the sun, cleaning up blueberry pie, and helping toddlers with chalk art.
Last year we started a new tradition, that we plan on carrying on! In June, we host a dinner called Celebrating Blue as a chance for the court members and the festival to get to know each other. We talk through the culture and values of the festival, trouble-shoot dramatic ‘What If’ scenarios, and have hilarious challenges that relate to the event world. It’s also our chance, as the National Blueberry Festival, to say thank you to this amazing group of young people.
We want to officially say thank you to the new 2019 Miss South Haven and Mr South Haven and their court members! Even though we don’t know you all, we are very proud of each of you, and all that you have accomplished to earn these important titles. We are so looking forward to working with you this year!
And to all the adults, parents and committee members that serve the Court behind the scenes - THANK YOU, for being amazing supporters, ambassadors and good sports with this wild and wonderful thing called the National Blueberry Festival!
Last festival’s Friday Night Entertainment was a roaring success! Jedi Mind Trip rocked out after Funkle Jesse warmed up the crowd for dancing! Favorites were played by excellent musicians and the Riverfront Park was packed. Midway through the concert, Entergy branded multi colored glow sticks started getting passed through the crowd and complemented the boat lights glowing along the river. People are still talking of how great this night was.
After 55 years of National Blueberry Festival, scenes like this could become common place to those living in South Haven, but they are anything but. We dance, sing, eat and relax together as a community. Nostalgic Friday night concerts make lasting memories for everyone there. If you think back, I am sure you can place yourself as a teen with your friends. These memories are a gift from Entergy - Palisades Power Plant.
With maintenance outages, and running a Nation’s top rated Nuclear Plant, you may be surprised to know all that Entergy-Palisades gets up to around South Haven area. Tours, blood drives, Adopt a Highway, South Haven Robotics Team, 5K fundraisers in Benton Harbor, backpack drives in Covert, Dragon Boat Races, Lake Michigan College, Habitat for Humanity, Mentoring programs, Pilgrim Haven’s public access, and our two personal favorites, the Bobby Walker Basketball Tournament and National Blueberry Festival’s Friday Night Entertainment on the Mainstage!
Entergy - Palisades’ involvement in community causes and recreation, truly reflects their passion to make our area thrive. No matter what the future holds, Entergy-Palisades has built an awesome legacy, that has and will continue to yield fruit for years to come. We as a festival are so grateful for what they do and the mark it makes on our youth, elderly, and all those in between.
So when you hear the music in Riverfront Park and think “Wow! What a great band!” take a moment to tip your (hard) hat to Entergy-Palisades Power Plant, and thank them for making our community proud.
From now through March we are running an "Unsung Heroes" series to highlight the amazing people and businesses behind South Haven's favorite National Blueberry Festival. Let's start...
Unsung Heroes - Part 1: Meijer
Joyful spirits abounded as kids, babysitters, parents, and grandparents ran from booth to boot in a colorful menagerie of activities! "Welcome to Blueville" says a friendly voice. It belongs to a crowned National Blueberry Festival court member who greets you kindly as you walk into the transformed village of Blueville, Meijer Kids Day's extraordinary event in Riverfront Park.
Fill up your card with stamps from the community hosted events and trade it in for fun treats, toys and trinkets. Each hands-on activity is designed by a unique community organization to teach kids about their areas of expertise. Of course, between activities kids can visit the clowns, get a twisted balloon, or have festive blueberries painted on their faces! What a blast, and it's all free, thanks to Meijer!
"We all go big for this day!" says Megan Cairns the festival's director. "Meijer has a representative onsite, doing great giveaways and of course, they fund the entire event, so that we can provide it free to the kids! The South Haven Meijer is an absolute shining star in our community, so it makes sense that this event is a star of our festival!"
The way the event is designed showcases South Haven's amazing non-profits through fun, carnival-like games, or artistic activities; this echos the value that Meijer has not only to the festival's 12 and under patrons, but also to the community at large.
Meijer Kids Day happens on the Friday of the festival, and is attended by over 300 kids, not to mention their parents, grandparents, and those pretending to be kids. The day has it's own team dedicated to putting on this memorable event. The Meijer Kids Day Coordinator - Maryhelen, starts planning for next year, literally the day after the event runs. "A whole lot of hours go into this event," says Megan. "Not to mention, the balloons, cupcakes, flags, toys, and candy!"
This vibrant day happens in River Front Park and is a not to be missed festival within the festival!
HUGE THANK YOU TO OUR SOUTH HAVEN MEIJER!!