JONI AVERILL

Down-home feel is real during Machias Wild Blueberry Festival annual musical comedy

Posted Aug. 16, 2011, at 12:23 p.m.

What is there not to love about watching your friends, neighbors and fellow community members giving it their all to entertain you?

Each year, people who attend the Machias Wild Blueberry Festival are treated to a musical comedy experience delightfully created, directed and performed by their very own, and this year’s show continues that wonderful tradition.

Performances of “Blueberry Fields Forever” are 7 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, Aug. 17-20, at Centre Street Congregational Church, which is the sponsor of the festival.

Tickets are $13 for adults and $5 for children and are available at the church or by calling 255-6665 weekdays.

The Wild Blueberry Festival is Aug. 19-21 with most events Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 20-21. For more information, call the church or visit www.machiasblueberry.com.

Folks who really want to attend the musical comedy, however, should either already have bought their tickets or should be buying them now, reports Laurel Robinson, one of the cast members who also is doing public relations work for the musical.

“We usually sell out for Thursday, Friday and Saturday,” she said. “There is a lot of incentive to get them ahead of time. They are usually available for Wednesday, however.”

Laurel told me this year’s show, “Blueberry Fields Forever,” written and directed by Doug Guy of Machias, “is a takeoff on ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ and other Beatles tunes. I know they’re looking for a disco ball.”

The musical tells the story of four young lads from across the pond who come and say they want to rake your land.

“They’re cute,” Lauren added. “The guys are all young men from around here.”

Doug’s wife, Centre Street Congregational Church choir director Christine Guy, is the show’s musical director, and the cast includes more than 40 people, Lauren said.

“We have little kids and guys in their 70s, just like we usually do. It’s a nice cross-section of people.”

Lauren is a member of the Tambourine Toccatas, who appear near the end of the show.

The Tambourine Toccatas are directed by 75-year-old Marge Ahlin of Machias, a 2011 Eastern Area Agency on Aging George Hale Silver Frame award-winner in the Artistic-Creative category. For more than 40 years Marge wrote, directed and performed in the Wild Blueberry Festival musicals to sellout crowds.

Marge learned her “Tambourine Toccatas” talent “from an old vaudevillian when she was a child and she has had a long-standing group,” Lauren said of the musicians whose number varies between seven and 10.

“It’s who is available and who can play. Five nights is a [major] commitment, for this show.”

If you want to see the Tambourine Toccatas in action, check them out on YouTube. It’s a hoot!

Lauren said one of the things that makes this annual show so popular is that it’s just a good, down-home time in a small town where people can bring their kids.

“Everybody comes together for the biggest party in Down East Maine. We do our best to make people feel welcome and let them know it is a safe place to be,” she said.

The 36th annual event features a variety of activities from blueberry farm tours to parades and children’s entertainment.

A Blueberry Run, blueberry pancake breakfast and blueberry pie-eating contest are other highlights of the weekend along with blueberry quilt exhibits, a baked bean supper, a blueberry cooking contest and the Blackfly Ball.

The complete schedule is available at the website, which proudly welcomes everyone (in appropriately blue print) to “come celebrate the powerful little fruit that put our corner of Downeast Maine on the map.”

Centre Street Congregational Church, UCC, rolls out the blue carpet each August with crafts, food, entertainment, contests and all things blueberry. There’s no admission charge.

“We are on the northern part of Maine’s beautiful, rugged coast, two hours from Bangor, about an hour and a half from Bar Harbor and a little more than an hour from St. Stephen, New Brunswick. From whale-watching to lighthouses, from hiking and kayaking to eagles and lobster rolls, our little corner of Maine has a lot to offer!”

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