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Blueberries are back at Ocean Springs festival

COURTESY OCEAN SPRINGS CHAMBER OF COMMERCEGuests enjoy blueberries, strawberries and ice cream at a past Red, White and Blueberry Festival.
COURTESY OCEAN SPRINGS CHAMBER OF COMMERCEGuests enjoy blueberries, strawberries and ice cream at a past Red, White and Blueberry Festival.

There is a short window for getting fresh blueberries and the Ocean Springs Chamber of

Commerce celebrates this time of year with the Red, White and Blueberry Festival on Saturday from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at the L&N Depot parking lot.

The Red, White and Blueberry Festival is different from most Ocean Springs festivals. Rather than focusing on arts and crafts, it's an opportunity to learn about, sample and purchase fresh blueberries.

Diane Claughton, director of the festival, said it's an extension of the Fresh Market that takes place each Saturday morning at the Depot.

"Post-Katrina, the Farmer's Market had been out for a year, and (former director) Margaret Miller said, 'Let's do something to cheer everyone up'; and we started the Red, White and Blueberry Festival. It became a tradition," Claughton said.

The Fresh Market will hold normal hours from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. but will be located nearby on Robinson Avenue.

Get them while they're blue

The blueberry season is very short, running from May to mid-July. Local growers share their goods, and the Chamber serves free samples along with strawberries and ice cream -- a special treat for a Saturday afternoon.

Alex Perry, owner and chef at Vestige restaurant in Ocean Springs, will share culinary tips as he creates blueberry dishes. What will he make? As always with Chef Perry, it depends on what is fresh in the market that day.

Fresh is better

"That's the way you get the best food -- using the best ingredients," Claughton said.

In smoothies or as cereal toppings are a few ways that Claughton likes to enjoy blueberries. She said she wasn't much of a fan, however, until the festival turned her around.

"I hated blueberries," she said. "I thought they were sour and nasty. Then we had the festival and I thought I would try them again. It's a revelation. Most people don't get to try them from the grower."

Local food writer Julian Brunt also will give a demonstration with local blueberry dishes. Additionally, the Master Gardeners and Mississippi State University horticulture specialist Jim Del Prince will give tips on growing blueberries and using them to decorate.

Admission to the festival is free.

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