The town of Wilmington and surrounding communities in the Deerfield Valley are looking a little blue-- for the fifth annual Blueberry Festival that is.
"The 200 gallons of blueberry Jell-O for the kids to play in, the blueberry ball, the blueberry scavenger hunt at the Haystack club," said Janet Boyd of Boyd Family Farm.
Those are just some highlights of the festival being held in a region where Tropical Storm Irene left a permanent mark.
And, of course, a blueberry festival is not complete without picking a few of your own. The event is organized with help from the Boyd Family Farm. Blue skies and beautiful views make the perfect backdrop.
"Not only do we need to be able to share what we do well, we need to be able to be diverse enough that we attract people to our area," Boyd said.
People like Lilia Monteiro.
"I tell everyone in New York I'm going to Vermont, 'oh my God, you are so lucky.' Yeah, it's fabulous over here," Monteiro said.
Monteiro and her family are visiting from out of state. She is a regular at the farm.
"We need to learn about agriculture, about organic food. I think it is important. That is what we grew up with and we are kind of getting away from that and it is really sad," she said.
Embracing the region's offerings is what the festival is all about, but the balloons tied to this year's event have added significance. The festival comes almost one year after Irene flooded downtown Wilmington, bringing the town to a screeching halt.
"What we have really tried and focused on is to make sure that we didn't stick our heads in the sand for this year, but instead, came out and continued life as normal," said Adam Grinold of the Mount Snow Valley Chamber of Commerce.
But now there's a new normal. Only the foundation remains of Dot's Restaurant on Main Street, which used to be a focal point in the community.
"It's been surreal," said John Reagan of Dot's. "For quite a few months not knowing what we were going to be able to do."
But the restaurant, like dozens of other businesses, is on the rise-- literally. The mid-1800s building was recently lifted off its foundation for needed repairs. And thanks in part to community support, it will reopen.
"People have to realize that the valley has returned, Wilmington has returned," Reagan said. "We're not 100 percent, but we are getting there day by day. This is just another step in the progress."
Other businesses have not been able to weather the storm. Some will never come back. But community leaders look to the future.
"Change is always difficult," Grinold said. "Especially forced traumatic change such as Irene, but we have really seen the community come together. Help the businesses that have the wherewithal to come back to do so. And the saying it takes a village has really played out to be true here."
A village that is once again hosting tourists.
"We've been doing a lot of things," said Maria Leonardi, a visitor from Long Island, N.Y. "From jumping in lakes to going shopping here at the country store."
And while they are here, they are sure to find something blue to buy as well.
"Because I know I'm helping out and spending money so they can work on more stuff to get more stuff back opened up," said Alayna Carroll, a tourist from New York.
About 70 different events will take place during the 10-day festival, all with the same theme-- blue. It doesn't represent the mood of this community, but rather its ability to bounce back from the storm.
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