Gone are the days of small, multiple blueberry processing facilities in Washington County, as illustrated by these company boxes from decades past. Courtesy of Wild Blueberry Heritage Center and Museum

COLUMBIA FALLS – The Wild Blueberry Heritage Center and Museum, a community-minded nonprofit showcasing one of Maine’s most iconic crops, invites your stories and your stuff.

That is, if you raked blueberries every August in your childhood, or if you have old rakes or winnowers or boxes needing a new place besides your old barn – you are welcome to contribute both memories and items, including photographs, to the museum’s exhibits.

The building is a favorite attraction already: It’s the big blueberry-shaped place along U.S. Route 1 in Columbia Falls, known the last 18 years as Wild Blueberry Land.

This is the summer when Wild Blueberry Land pivots to become the Heritage Center and Museum. The Grand Opening is scheduled for 3 p.m., Wednesday, July 21.

“We are beyond excited for this transition,” said Katherine Cassidy, who is working alongside the organization’s board of directors to rebrand Wild Blueberry Land. “This is a time when our entire community can celebrate wild blueberries, past and present, for many reasons.”

Pies made by Marie Emerson have been the signature seller at Wild Blueberry Land for years. The pies and “everything blueberry” will still be sold from the museum’s gift shop and take-out window.

But the rest of the floor space becomes a family-friendly museum, which focuses on the wild blueberry as a heritage crop worth saving. The museum features the traditions and culture of wild blueberries as an economic staple of Washington County, where 90 percent of Maine’s blueberry lands are found.

It tells the story of an agricultural sector that is actually fading, given that the region’s blueberry processors have turned to mechanized harvesting in place of people. Against the challenges of a now-booming international blueberry market, Maine’s own wild blueberries are not even being identified as such for consumer sales.

That’s why families’ and individuals’ stories are treasured, as is the old equipment that was used for generations.

If you would like to share your stories, the Heritage Center and Museum folks are ready to meet you and record how locals’ lives every August revolved around the harvest. They are also willing to come pick up anything that your family wants to donate, or lend, to the museum displays.

Please call Cassidy at 207-259-0213 or reach her by email at katherine@wildblueberrymuseum.org with questions.