Blueberries, dragsters and pioneers

The Cloverdale Blueberry Festival gets in touch with its roots by adding a little heritage to the mix.

History lives through Surrey's Frontier Tale Blazers: Heming Hopkins as Stan McKinnon

It’s the ultimate summer event in the historic heart of Surrey, so it’s only fitting that the 9th annual Cloverdale Blueberry Festival is getting in touch with its roots.

Presented by the Cloverdale Business Improvement Association and the Cloverdale District Chamber of Commerce and partners, the festival continues to grow and evolve, getting bigger and better every year.

There’s a definite heritage theme being added to the mix in 2012, with activities like an historic walking tour of downtown Cloverdale, actors in period costume portraying some of Surrey’s most colorful pioneer characters, an antique tractor pull, antique car zone and more.

“You can see history permeating the whole event,” says festival co-organizer Paul Orazietti.

We may not have castles or Roman ruins, he says, but we do have a proud history to discover and celebrate.

The festival is also a chance for local service organizations to shine, serving up a plethora of pancake breakfasts and lunchtime barbecues at various points in the town centre.

“Again, as a community, we always seek to get more and more members of it profiling what we do, so it really is a pure, community event,” Orazietti says.

As always, paying homage to the great and mighty blueberry is front and centre, inspiring delicious pies, pancake and fruit sales – and a parent’s greatest blackmail photo op: the blueberry pie-eating contest, where competitive eaters of all ages will chow (face) down.

Contestants are draped in large, yellow garbage bags protecting them from the inevitable onslaught of blueberry pie goo. Spectators take note: it’s called The Splash Zone for a reason. Consider yourself warned.

Competitors are mostly kids, but there’s always a few adults determined to take up the challenge. (Located in the Family Zone at Clover Square Village, also hosting the talent showcase, BMX stunt shows, face painting, mini-golf and more).

Clover Square Village also hosts the Race Car Zone, new this year. It features quarter-mile drag racers on display, including a top field nitro-burning funny car capable of traveling a quarter mile in less than four seconds.

Candy-coloured classic cars, hot rods, muscle cars and motorcycles will line Cloverdale’s 176 and 176A Streets in the historic town centre for the Surrey Show ‘n Shine (9 a.m. to 4 p.m.)

Surrey Museum Plaza hosts the Surrey Art Council’s Blueberry Arts Festival, a visual and performing arts showcase, plus a juried art competition, draft sales and more.

The Surrey Museum presents three, must-see events, the Fire Truck open house, Pic Knit, and blueberry festival activities, including a kids play area, craft table and historic actors reenacting Surrey history and events.

Frontier Tale Blazers are a new heritage program bringing life to stories and events from Surrey’s history in its pioneer years, from 1872 to 1945.

Actors stationed at various festival points will recreate the lives and experiences of early settlers such as Reeve T.J. Sullivan, carpenter Eric Anderson, Dr. Fredrick Sinclair, and school teacher Mary Jane Shannon.

Over at Brick Yard Station (Highway 10 and 176 Street  bypass), meet some of Cloverdale’s newest merchants at an open house. It’s also the British Car Zone.

Ironically, for a festival with the name blueberry in the title, you may be hard pressed to find many blueberry producers on hand.

The festival takes place when local blueberry producers are working at their max, harvesting the quickly-ripening crop.

“A lot of berry farming tends to be a wholesale business,” he points out. “Because of staffing challenges, it’s hard for them to get as many booths as we’d like.”

At the northern-most end of the festival, there’s the Dinotown Live attraction at the Cloverdale Fairgrounds, Orazietti said.

The Versatiles, a golden-aged performing arts troupe, are putting on a show at noon Saturday at Fraser Downs Racetrack and Casino, hosting the two-day Antique Tractor Pull (1-3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday) and the Antique Zone inside the track, where you can admire Model As and pioneer trucks from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

“That is all bringing local people together who can do their thing and are in that [historic] vein,” says Orazietti. “It really kind of marries up nicely.”

The B.C. Heritage Transport Centre (Cloverdale Fairgrounds), while not open, will be displaying a few of the newly-acquired antique freight trucks that recently returned to Cloverdale.

For more information, visit cloverdalebia.com, and surrey.ca/heritage.