Get in a JAM
Lowell’s Blackberry Jam Festival Celebrates 25 Years
By Patty Jo Angelini
The last weekend in July marks the 25th anniversary of Lowell celebrating family, fun and music with the free Blackberry Jam Festival at Rolling Rock Park.
“Back in 1995 we were looking for ways to promote the communities of Lowell, Fall Creek and Dexter without relying on property tax revenue,” says Warren Weathers, one of the festival’s co-founders. “We realized a festival would accomplish that, and provide fun times for local families and visitors.”
The first Blackberry Jam Festival featured a fishing derby at Lowell State Park, which highlighted the beauty of Lowell and improved the fishery by reducing the squawfish population in Dexter Lake. A flatbed trailer served as the stage at the marina. An Elvis Presley look-alike and the Lowell High School band provided entertainment. Irma Ballenger was named first citizen for the festival. Lowell resident Art Flower won the fishing derby with the longest fish measuring 17 inches.
Fast forward 25 years. Although Elvis has left the building, the Blackberry Jam Festival fills Rolling Rock Park and spills over to Lowell State Park and the covered bridge. The fishing derby is still a favorite, but now there is also a parade, two-day quilt show, kids’ corner, horseshoe tournament, and craft and food vendors. The outdoor amphitheater is home to a magic show, other performances and live music. New to 2019 is a beer, hard cider and spirits garden.
“It’s heartwarming to see how the festival has grown and how people come year after year,” says Gail Harris, whose husband was the other festival co-founder. “Hundreds of people pack our park day and night, and they come from throughout Oregon. Kids leave exhausted and parents head home humming some tune they heard the live bands play. It’s a perfect small-town celebration.”
Brad Anderson, Lane Electric Cooperative’s fleet mechanic, grew up in the Dexter/Pleasant Hill area. This will be his fourth year organizing the horseshoe tournament.
“About 15 guys who grew up in this area play horseshoes just about every weekend in the summer,” Brad says. “I called up Blackberry Jam a few years ago to see if they would add a horseshoe tournament to the festivities. The answer was ‘Yes, and you’re in charge.’”
Horseshoe tournament participants travel from near and far, including the 2017 winners who came from Grants Pass. First place winners get 50% of the entry fees ($20 per two-person team) and second place gets 25%. Another 25% goes back to the festival.
Putting together the festival is a yearlong effort, says Mike Galvin, Blackberry Jam Festival committee chairman. “It takes 40 to 50 volunteers to make
this festival come alive, and we always can use more volunteers. Volunteer duties range from logistics, staffing kids’ games and, of course, making blackberry pies for the all important pie-eating contest.
“We’ve got two activities where you always count on seeing great crowds and cheering: our pie-eating contest and the greased pole climb. I am tempted to say they both put a smile on people’s faces, but that pie can be pretty tart for the contestants.”
Berry Important Details
- The Blackberry Jam Festival begins at 5 p.m. Friday, July 26, and ends at 4 p.m. Sunday, July 28.
- Space is still available for entry in the parade, car and quilt shows.
- For more information, visit blackberryjamfestival.com or call 866-516-5534.
- To pre-register for the horseshoe tournament, contact Brad at email@example.com.