By: Vickie Calby ∼MRC Board Member∼
The year is 1980; things are different–very different.
Sue Stone is not the administrator of the Susquehanna County Library, and there has never been a “Montrose Blueberry Festival,” nor is the “story hour” space in the library bright and kid-friendly.
Sue, in 1980, is in charge of preschool story hour. She and a number of the moms who bring their kids to story hour feel the room needs some brightening up. One mom orchestrates the painting of the room, and other moms respond by chipping in their own money to buy the paint. The result is bright canary yellow walls.
“It was gorgeous,” says Sue, and it inspired Sue Magnotti, who was bringing her grandchildren to story hour at the time, to sew bright orange drapes.
These seemingly small events morphed into what we now know as “The Blueberry Festival,” according to Sue.
She says the moms started thinking…what more can we do?
As the saying goes, the more things change the more they stay the same: “The Library needed funds. These ladies wanted to help, so they put their minds to work figuring out the best way to raise a little money,” says Sue.
Library chairpersons Mary Ann Cornell and Dawn Augenti suggested visiting a small festival that was being held in Clarks Summit. This festival was held to raise money for the Abington Library, and seemed like the perfect place to investigate.
The Clarks Summit road trip group consisted of Mary Ann, Dawn, Beulah Hefferan, Sue Stone, and Gloria Shields. What they found was kid’s games, and bake sales.
Their response: “We can do this.”
“It was…now to figure out how and when,” says Sue.
There was already a yearly book sale in place to raise money for the library. Mary Ann Baker, the founder of the book sale, held it the first weekend of each August. A tent was strung over the area where the Book Mobile used to park and the books could be found under the tent. (Some may remember this spot as it was a favorite with youngsters who enjoyed hanging from the metal railing along the side stairs and then jumping enthusiastically into the space below).
“So why not tag onto the Book Sale? It seemed like the perfect answer,” she says.
In addition to a bake sale, book sale, and kids’ games, (thank you Bob Smith) the first year featured Tussie-Mussies (a small bunch of flowers tied together) which were a big hit.
Another idea was a contest to pick the best Huck Huckleberry and Miss Blueberry. Eudora Bennett and Monsignor Duel served as judges.
That first year $4,000 was raised, Sue recalls.
“We thought we were the Kings of the Hill.”
Thirty nine years have gone by; changes and improvements have been made.
Now when attempting to walk by the Green on the first Friday morning of each August, the wonderful aroma of sausage beckons and you suddenly find yourself sitting at a table under a tent, listening to music and eating pancakes topped with blueberries, or consuming a heaping dish of fresh fruit–or one of many other choices.
For the library, and for the town of Montrose, the Blueberry Festival is a huge event.
Sue credits the annual festival’s success to its varied offerings.
“The festival really is oriented toward the family. There is no admission fee. The kids’ games are reasonably priced, and you can get books for one dollar,” she says.
She is right. There is something for everyone: games for the kids, blueberry muffins, and even blueberry pizza. As a matter of fact, the festival has all things blueberry!
Although the book sale is still going strong, one of the biggest draws of the festival is the White Elephant Sale.
Connie Page starts preparing for the White Elephant Sale two months in advance. She takes donations home and cleans them up, and then gets everything organized for the big two day event (with lots of help of course).
Live music was added about ten years ago. These talented musicians play for their library, and ask for no payment.
Almost from the beginning, a favorite has been the Quilt Raffle.
For the most part, items for the quilt are donated. During the first years, a group would sit around at the library and quilt. The group consisted of many ladies who are familiar to locals, Gladys Bennett, Peg Calby, Marge McNaught, and Marie McAvoy, among others.
Sue said eventually the working space used for quilting was no longer available, putting an end to that era. Now the groups making the quilt pick out a pattern and pass out materials among themselves to work on, and bring it all together at the end.
This year a local quilt group called the Kaffetts made the quilt. Barb Merritt, a professional quilter, donated her time and talent. Take a close look when you purchase your raffle ticket; Karen Farmer handmade some of the fabric in this quilt.
Last year the festival raised $70,000! Imagine the gratitude felt by those who were there at the beginning–when $4,000 made them feel like the “Kings of the Hill.”
Many are interested in what happens to the money raised at the festival.
Sue explains, “Since the creation of the Blueberry Festival, all proceeds go totally in support of association operations. What this means is: the library in Montrose, the Historical Society, our outreach programs, which are the Book Mobile, Books by Mail, Books on Wheels, as well as the Forest City location, the Hallstead location, and the Susquehanna location. Not a penny has gone toward the new library.”
Library funding has always been a serious issue. Twice in the last 30 years the state has seriously reduced funding. So we depend on the Blueberry Festival more and more. Those going to the library on Fridays will feel the sting of the cuts. A sign on the door informs us the library is closed due to lack of state funding.
So come out this weekend, August 3rd and 4th! Enjoy ice cream and blueberry buckle; see old friends and listen to some music; pick-up a new treasure at the White Elephant Sale, purchase a new book, and buy a raffle ticket–you may become the proud owner of a one-of-a-kind quilt. Most of all, you will have the satisfaction of knowing your support of the library is making a difference for the better!