After a two-year hiatus due to the Covid pandemic, the Brooksville Blueberry Festival was back on April 23 and 24, 2022. The weather cooperated−always a factor in Florida−and large crowds turned out for the two-day festival held on April 23rd and 24th. Natalie Kahler, Brooksville Main Street director, said on Saturday alone the festival brought in as many attendees as they expected over the entire two days.
Approximately 330 vendors showed up. These included non-profit organizations promoting their causes; political candidates hoping to drum up votes; businesses; a host of crafters; live music; as well as food and beverage vendors. Of course, there were plenty of blueberries on sale by local farmers.
Mallory Posluszny had a booth selling her Malderberry Organic Elderberry Syrup. She makes syrup for medicinal purposes and tea out of organic elderberries. She started doing this about six years ago because her children were always passing colds and flu back and forth to each other. Mallory stated, “I didn’t want to use antibiotics so I did some research and found out that elderberries have strong anti-viral properties. I recently started adding turmeric to the syrup because my oldest son has juvenile rheumatoid arthritis and I didn’t want him living on steroids and pain medicine.” Mallory shared her idea with friends and soon had a business going. The full-time mom and homeschooler to her four children now works out of a commercial kitchen which is inspected regularly by the state health department.
Cheryl Sackaris owns Names Unlimited and makes bracelets, anklets, and necklaces incorporating a person’s name into the design. She and her mother started the business twenty-four years ago. Now Cheryl runs the operation with the help of her friend, Beth Yacker, who has been with her for about nine years. She can add links to the jewelry to make the jewelry a perfect fit for her customer.
Mermaids and Moonbeams is the name of Valerie Smith’s business. She makes decorative items and jewelry with seashells and other objects and also uses them to adorn larger pieces. Valerie has been working at her craft for eleven years. “I started out making things just for fun when I lived in Zephyrhills. When I moved to Panama City I got into all the ‘beachy’ things and started doing jewelry with shells,” stated Valerie.
Valerie has since moved back to Zephyrhills and is planning on opening up a shop in that area. Her fiancé, Robert Daniels, helps her in the business and she describes him as her “biggest cheerleader.”
Another vendor was Peggy Palmer of Out of the Can Upscale Art with her beautiful objects made from aluminum cans. These range from butterflies to flowers and just about everything in between. She explained the process of creating these objets d’arts. Peggy stated, “I cut out the patterns, usually twenty or so at a time. I cut several layers and then glue the layers together. The glue has to dry overnight. In about three days I can probably make twenty items.” Once the items are finished she glues magnets to the back. Peggy also does custom orders. For example, she’ll glue a clothespin to the back and it becomes a Christmas tree ornament or decoration for a planter. Since aluminum doesn’t rust, her items are perfect for the outdoors.
Off Track Transformations, Inc. was among the many non-profit organizations represented at the festival. It was established in 2020 and specializes in helping retired racehorses by finding them homes, by rehabilitating them, and “grooming” them for a second career. Among the services this organization offers are riding lessons, equine experiences for non-riders, and trail rides. Although they work primarily with the public they’re setting up a scholarship fund for military veterans to be able to provide these men and women the same services but at no cost. Executive Director Ashley Bump discussed how the organization came to be. She stated, “I owned my first thoroughbred in 2019 and I competed in Kentucky at the thoroughbred makeover there. I fell in love with it. I love the breed. They have such a strong drive to please.”
Off Track Transformations, Inc. is located at The Takoda Wellness Ranch which offers a multitude of services, such as classes in gardening, Pilates, nutrition, yoga, and meditation. It also serves as a venue for weddings and there is a bed and breakfast on site.
Along with the vendors, there was live music on both days and Saturday evening. Visitors also had an opportunity to partake of craft beers and just about any type of food you could imagine. Local farms had produce, honey, and blueberries for sale. Hunter McMann and McKayla Murchio were there representing Margo’s Blueberry Farm, LLC. Their growing season for blueberries is April through May. Towards the end of the season, they open the fields to the public for people to pick their own.
Brooksville Main Street was responsible for putting the festival together and there were many local business sponsors. I’m sure that those who patronize these types of events are glad to see the Blueberry Festival back and will be looking forward to next year’s festival.