Blueberry 10

Blueberries sold by the Kiwanis Club of Arlington were harvested at Haines Berry Farm in Pemberton, N.J. (Photo by Rebecca Burton)

Go figure: Despite the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent multi-month social and economic lockdown, the Kiwanis Club of Arlington’s annual blueberry sale proved a record-breaking success.

A record? “Oh, yes!” exclaimed club treasurer Julia Wright, the queen of the club’s blueberry operations, who was managing the flow of patrons and their orders in the Cherrydale United Methodist Church parking lot, where more than 1,100 10-pound boxes of bursting-with-flavor-and-antioxidants blueberries from the fields of Haines Berry Farm in Pemberton, N.J., were being distributed.

It was a 25-percent increase over last year’s sales, and cars started lining up for pickup an hour before the two-day distribution began on June 26.

Wright, who conceived the blueberry effort several years ago, had a theory why 2020’s sales were through the roof. The public wanted something tangible to remind them that things were getting back on track, however slowly.

“A lot of people who called said, ‘finally, something normal – something that didn’t get taken away,’” Wright said from beneath a canopy keeping away the summertime sun.

(Fun fact: The originator of the linguistically contorted but politically powerful phrase “return to normalcy” was Warren G. Harding – not the greatest president, perhaps, but the only one to have been a Kiwanian.)

Also credited with the aiding bump in sales were efforts by public-relations professional Carolyn Carlson, the wife of club member Dave Carlson, in crafting marketing for the effort.

The event is “our major fund-raiser to support children in Arlington,” said club president Linda Chandler, taking time from a role as major domo of the distribution effort.

(Long-timers in the community will remember that the Kiwanis Club for years hosted a pig roast and oyster feast shortly before Election Day each fall. When the increasingly complex logistics of that fund-raiser proved untenable, the club looked around for options, and blueberries won out.)

Revenue from the sales will support scholarships, the Terrific Parenting program at Arlington Public Schools and annual grants to more than 40 non-profit organizations that have a youth focus, Chandler said.

The public-health situation necessitated a few pickup changes from previous years, designed to ensure safety.

Sealed boxes of blueberries were deposited by masked-up Kiwanis Club members into either the rear seats or trunk of vehicles, enabling largely “contact-less” delivery.

“I think it’s worked really well,” said Wright, who two years ago was named the Inter-Service Club Council’s Woman of the Year for her effort leading blueberry sales.

Cars formed a conga line in the parking lot, one that sometimes grew lengthy enough that it briefly spilled out into the street.

“Next year, I would like to have a sign on a stick,” chuckled club president-elect Jason Harrington, who was directing the flow of traffic. (Harrington had the skills required to get the job done, as he is a retired federal highway engineer.)

The club also offered purchasers the opportunity to buy extra blueberries to support the Arlington Food Assistance Center, and many did.

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Find a link to a slide show of photos from the event at https://sungazette.news/photos.

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