Blueberries go over big

Published 12:11 am Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Near record crowds descended on Poplarville on Saturday as the annual Blueberry Jubilee appears to have fully recovered from the setback of hurricane Katrina four years ago.

Crowds had been steadily growing each year and even the doom and gloom of the current economic downturn does not appear to have affected this year’s attendance.

One couple with a young child drove in about noon from about 50 miles north of Mobile, Ala., and said this was their first time to attend.

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Mark Bridgers with the Blueberry Jubilee Council said that in 2008, the area allocated for arts and craft booths had been reduced slightly but this year the space not used last year had to be used this year.

“We had more arts and crafts applications requested and we may have broken a record this year,” he said.

The crowds were really good and he believed the bright, sunny weather, though hot, was not as humid as had been experienced by those enjoying the Jubilee in previous years. Bridgers said there were no reports yet from vendors but that the council’s Blueberry T-shirts for the current year had been completely sold out before noon.

“We were pulling out leftover shirts from previous years,” he said, commenting that the council had even increased the number of shirts ordered this year.

Several runners who participated in the Poplarville PTA’s 5K Run said that event was really well done and indicated they planned to return next year. Organizers put the unofficial number of runners at more than 150.

Neil Soloman of Hattiesburg said the race course was one of the more challenging courses he had run. Soloman said the race was actually competing with similar races being held in Hattiesburg and on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. He believed that the Jubilee race could have had 250 or more participants, if there were no other races being held at the same time.

Sean Fitzwilliam of New Orleans, who was over-all male winner with a time of 17 minutes 12 seconds, said this was his first Blueberry 5K and that he planned to come back next year. Fitzwilliam said the course was fast at the start, but the hilly nature of the second half slowed down the field.

The 30-year-old is no stranger to running competitively, having raced for Loyola University in New Orleans. He was inducted in that school’s Hall of Fame earlier in this year.