BERRY CREEK — The Berry Festival in Berry Creek is truly about berries, but more than that, it’s about the community.
Much of what was happening Saturday at the Grange Hall on Bald Rock Road benefited one of the institutions that serves Berry Creek.
The pie sale that drew the crowds supports the grange. A booth a bit up the hill selling blackberry lemonade helped pay for the Berry Festival itself. And there next to the stage a raffle was set up to help the local Cal Fire volunteer company.
It’s the 20th year for the festival. Wide swaths of hanging shade cloth kept the sun away in places where the numerous trees didn’t. Under the shade there was variety of food and music, like the Strung Nugget Gang turning songs by Michael Jackson and others into bluegrass tunes. There was a bounce house for the kids. Vendors were selling everything from honey to tie-dye, but under the festival rules everything had to be handmade.
But the big attraction was the blackberry pies, and for good reason. Although the berries are bought wholesale, everything is hand-made with a boxed crust mix, from the mixing and rolling, to the assembling and fork-pricking.
There are two pie crews — the pie makers and the pie bakers. Most of the pies are assembled and frozen to be baked at home. What comes out of the Grange Hall kitchen on Saturday are made and baked in the few days earlier by an amazing crew of three.
Lola Adamczak, one of the three, has been helping out for about 10 years after moving from the Sacramento area to Berry Creek 15 years ago. “We just wanted to be trees,” she said of the final destination.
Pies are either 13 inches in diameter or 5 inches, perfect for a twosome or onesome. Some are sugar-free.
The crew makes hundreds of pies, and it’s a lot of work. They usually sell out. “Someone will ask me, ‘Why don’t you make more?’ and I say, ‘Are you nuts?”’ Adamczak said.
A couple of the pies are saved and sliced for pie-eating contests, one of which pits a Cal Fire-led team against firefighters from the Plumas National Forest.
Both agencies had engines at the event, and people went out of their way to say thank you, as fire is a constant fear in the foothills.
Among the booths offering information, was the Berry Creek Fire Safe Council. There, Misty McDivitt shaped her gratitude to the fire crews in small acrylic paintings.
One was an aerial view, with a fire-red sun being passed by an air tanker, a sight well-known around Butte County and the north state these days.
“I did it to spread awareness and to say thanks,” said McDivitt. The money would go to the Berry Creek Volunteer Fire Department if she sold the paintings.
“I like living up here, but I’ve been evacuated because of fires,” she said. Not far from the paintings was an Oroville Mercury-Register article about a $5 million grant the fire safe council hoped to get.
“We could clear a lot of area with that money,” she said.