Blackberry Jam Festival: Making Charity Fun for the Family
For the last 17 years, the city of Lowell, Oregon has held the annual Blackberry Jam Festival. The weekend-long event features an array of events and activities — music, crafts, a car show, and a fishing derby, just to name a few. That is not to even mention the popular pie-making and pie-eating contests that feature — not surprisingly — blackberries.
Organized entirely by volunteers, the Blackberry Jam is run by a committee of fourteen core members and then receives assistance from many more volunteers during the actual three days of the event. As the festival takes place at a city park, it operates under the auspices of the City of Lowell.
Maureen Weathers, the Secretary-Treasurer of the Blackberry Jam Festival, says that the event originated with a desire to improve the lake habitat in the city of Lowell. Weathers says,
“The idea of the festival was originally to promote Lowell and to encourage the Fish and Game Department to stock the lake. We thought that, by holding a fishing derby every year, we could help remove the trash fish from the lake.”
Another key inspiration involves the “blackberry” part of the festival’s name. Weathers says,
“The jam portion, of course, refers to music. The blackberry part came from turning a negative into a positive. For a lot of people in this area, blackberries are a nuisance vegetation. So we decided to make something good out of this nuisance. So we have a pie-baking contest and pie-eating contest—blackberries being the focus.”
And the festival did not just stop with turning a nuisance vegetation into delicious pies. They took that love for pies and transformed the actual area.
“The park where the festival is held—it was a weedy field overrun by blackberry bushes before the festival existed. We turned it into a beautiful park.”
Now in its 18th year, the Blackberry Jam has grown substantially. Over the years they have added live music, car and quilt shows, a parade—and this year, for the first time, the Lowell Volunteer Firefighters Association is bringing an annual “5 Alarm 5K” to the Blackberry Jam.
Weathers is very excited about this newest addition. She explains that,
“Our fire department is a volunteer organization. So their mission with this race is to use the proceeds to benefit both the Lowell Fire Department as well as the National Fallen Firefighter’s Association.”
The festival prides itself on having free admission and being a wholesome environment in which families can relax and enjoy themselves—and all for good charitable causes. Most of the events have their own targeted charities.
Weathers believes everyone should attend—it is fun, free to the public to enter, and helps all sorts of people.
“So many people drive down the 58 and say they didn’t even know Lowell was there. This event brings community awareness, fun for both the community and visitors, and gives us pride in being residents of Lowell. We’ve made so many important contributions—we’ve improved the lake habitats, we’ve built a park, we’ve built a huge stage—there are so many physical improvements to the area. That’s not to even mention the charitable causes. And in a little town, raising even 500 bucks goes a long way.”
And, of course, Weathers adds,
“The kids just have a good time. And parents love that.”
The Blackberry Jam Festival takes place this weekend, July 27-29, at Rolling Rock Park in downtown Lowell. It is free and everyone is invited. For more information about the event, visit the festival’s website at http://www.blackberryjamfestival.com/.