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State reps square off over blueberry proclamations
by Christian Avard
04.29.10 - 12:29 pm
Tony Clark, owner of Blueberry Hill Inn, in Goshen,  and Rep. Willem Jewett, left, talk with Rep. John Moran in the House chambers. Behind Moran are Rep. Ann Manwaring, Janet Boyd, and Olivia Mancivilano. All were at the Statehouse Thursday morning to take part in the blueberry proclamations.             Laura Sibilia
MONTPELIER- With only weeks to go in the biennium, the Legislature is abuzz with activity as the House and Senate are making last minute changes to the major bills that need to be passed. Their work also includes approving resolutions that honor important people, milestones, awards, and events. Two local representatives were planning to introduce a resolution naming the Deerfield Valley as the blueberry capital of Vermont. That was until another state representative noticed it on the legislative calendar and said “not so fast.”

Representatives Ann Manwaring, of Wilmington, and John Moran, of Wardsboro, proposed the resolution at the request of constituents and business organizations. The Deerfield Valley Blueberry Festival is a summer event celebrating family farms, local products, agriculture, and blueberries. Mount Snow Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Laura Sibilia and Janet Boyd, the Deerfield Valley Blueberry Festival organizer, approached Manwaring and Moran with the idea of a resolution. They wanted the state to recognize the Deerfield Valley’s blueberry festival because it’s the first of its kind in Vermont.

“(We) pursued the resolution in hopes of highlighting the terrific collaborative blueberry accomplishment here in the valley: our 10-day-long blueberry festival put on by dozens of businesses, farms, nonprofits, towns, and individuals,” said Sibilia. “Anytime we have an opportunity to let the Legislature know about the successes we are having here in the valley, it helps.”

The resolution states the Deerfield Valley Blueberry Festival “promotes the purchase and eating of locally grown healthy foods that are free of pesticides, ... encourages local participation in the state’s farm-to-school program, ... and asks that the general assembly designate the Deerfield Valley as the blueberry capital of Vermont and extend its wishes for success of the 2010 Deerfield Valley Blueberry Festival.”

Representative Willem Jewett, of Ripton, was the acting speaker of the House when he saw the resolution. The Moosalamoo National Recreational Area is located in Jewett’s district, in Addison County in northwestern Vermont, and the park is a popular spot for wild blueberries. Jewett said he was “surprised” to learn there was a blueberry festival in southern Vermont, but he also thought the Deerfield Valley shouldn’t receive all the attention. As a result, Jewett proposed another resolution that recognized the Moosalamoo National Recreation Area’s blueberry management area as the wild blueberry capital of Vermont.

Jewett’s resolution states “Whereas the general assembly never meant to slight the town of Goshen, or the Moosalamoo National Recreation Area, when it hastily designated the Deerfield Valley as Vermont’s blueberry capital without first dispatching qualified horticultural experts to verify the veracity of this claim, ... (let it be resolved) that the general assembly recognizes the town of Goshen and the blueberry management area in the Moosalamoo National Recreation Area as the wild blueberry capital of Vermont.”

“We couldn’t stand for it, man,” laughed Jewett. “They’re not taking into account that there are more than enough blueberries to go around.”

While Jewett acknowledged there is no wild blueberry festival, going to the Moosalamoo National Recreation Area to pick blueberries is an important tradition in the area he represents. “Our area is not very developed,” said Jewett. “It’s not so much a festival or an economic engine, but it’s a cultural thing we have. We go to the fields and we pick blueberries.”

Manwaring met with Jewett earlier this week and they agreed to introduce both resolutions. The Speaker of the House will introduce each resolution, Manwaring will read from her resolution, Jewett will read from his, and the House will vote on both. The resolutions can be approved in the House and the Senate, but both chambers are not necessary for passage. Manwaring said the House will pass both of them without any fuss.

Jewett believes the little rivalry between the Deerfield Valley and the Goshen area was a blessing in disguise. He was “intrigued” by the blueberry festival’s success and he’s planning on meeting with Boyd and other event organizers “to hear what’s going on down there” so they can “get some exposure.”

When asked whether the number of resolutions introduced in the House and Senate takes time away from the important pieces of legislation, Jewett said they don’t. Resolutions are often always approved by voice votes and they entail very little discussion. Even though the Legislature sometimes handles several resolutions per day, Jewett maintains they are significant because individuals and organizations in Vermont take pride in being recognized by the state.

“If you’re part of a festival, celebrated a 50th anniversary or a musician who cut a CD and won an award, it means a lot,” said Jewett. “I understand people think it’s silliness, but it connects them to the state. Whenever you walk around town and you see these recognitions around town, it’s important.”

Vermont Blueberry Festival receives grant funding for parade

 

DOVER – Organizers of the 2nd Annual Deerfield Valley Blueberry Festival have received grant funding from the Town of Dover Economic Development Fund for the creation of a Blue Parade to be held in Dover on Saturday August 8th 2009. The parade, which takes place on the closing weekend of the 10 day festival, will feature blue themed floats, music and entertainment.

 

The festival is the brainchild of Boyd Farm proprietor Janet Boyd and is managed in partnership with the Mount Snow Valley Chamber of Commerce.  Featuring 10 days of blueberry and blue themed activities in dozens of locations, 2008’s well attended event earned it a spot on the Vermont State Chamber of Commerce’s 2009 Top 10 Vermont Summer Events.

 

Individual venue events for the festival are already being compiled, but volunteers are needed for developing parade float criteria, routes, entertainment and logistics.  A parade planning meeting is planned for 9 am on Wednesday April 1st at the Chamber offices in Wilmington.  All are welcome!  For more information on getting involved contact Laura or Megan at the chamber offices 464-8092.


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