Negotiations expected to begin with City after this year’s event

PLYMOUTH — This year marks the 48th annual Blueberry Festival and the end of the current three-year contract between the Plymouth Park Board and the Blueberry Festival Board.
In 2012, the two parties agreed on the contract that raised the annual fee for the exclusive use of the park during the Labor Day holiday to $31,000 per year. The negotiated cost reflected a $1,000 per year increase over previous contracts.
The current contract will only be in force through 2014.
The contract allows the Blueberry Committee to erect tents in specified areas the Sunday prior to the event and exclusive use of the park facilities during the four-day festival. This year the festival will be from Aug. 29 - Sept. 1.
“The Board has not had any formal discussions on changing the site,” Sherrie Martin,, Blueberry Festival coordinator,. said, “We do have a long- range planning committee that we have had for at least 15-20 years.”
Martin pointed to other entities in the community that use the long-range planning model. She said, “The City, the schools, and the Park Department all have long range plans.” “We need to run the Blueberry Festival like a business.” she said.
Last week a comment made at an Argos School Board meeting about the possibility of the Blueberry Festival moving away from Centennial Park in Plymouth sparked hundreds of social media posts. Reportedly, Argos Schools Superintendent Russ Mikel related a question he had been asked from one of the Blueberry Festival Board members concerning how school attendance would be handled if the festival was relocated in Argos.
“We have to have a plan for ‘what ifs’”, she said.
Martin said the Blueberry Festival Committee have been contacted by out of county groups such as St. Joseph County and the LaPorte area.
“They have facilities that they want to market and get income from; however, we won’t move out of Marshall County,” she said.
As for the expiring contract, “We will renegotiate the contract following the festival.”
Right now festival organizers are focusing the next few weeks on getting all the details in place before Labor Day before thinking about 2015.
The annual festival features some 300 art and craft vendors, 100 or so food booths by both profit and not-for -profit groups, ongoing entertainment, Miss Blueberry Pageant, Little Miss and Mister Blueberry Pageant, fireworks, a hot-air balloon display, and a carnival. In conjunction with the festival offerings, local organizations hold such events as the Blueberry Stomp, athletic contests , bicycle cruise, horse/ tractor pull, and a parade… while many others use the four-day event to generate income by holding a large antique car show, parking thousands of cars and manning booths.
The Blueberry Festival has grown into Indiana’s largest four-day festival from its modest beginnings in 1966 when the Plymouth Jaycees organized a Labor Day Celebration for Marshall County to observe Indiana’s sesquicentennial.

This story was originally printed in the July 28 edition of the Pilot News.