Monday, April 26, 2010

Dewberry Festival

Those of you that did not make it to the Dewberry Festival missed a sure enough Central Texas good time. Probably one of the better turnouts that I have seen in quite a while. To think all of this began with Jeff Smitherman's idea to honor the status of Milam County as the Dewberry Capitol of Texas.

Milam County became the Dewberry Capitol of Texas in 1995. Then Representative Dan Kubiak authored and presented House Resolution 11 which was passed on March 30, 1995. The late Gene Smitherman, of KMIL radio, is often given credit for coming up with the idea. However, those of us in the know are sure that it was his co-host Silas Strausburger that presented the idea to Representative Kubiak.

Silas was especially partial to dewberries. Listeners across Central Texas could keep a check on the local dewberry crop progress by tuning into the morning talk show entitled the Breakfast Club. Dewberries were a favorite food for Silas, and he also supplemented his income by selling fresh dewberries to the public. One year a gallon of dewberries that Silas donated to charity sold for 1,700 dollars.

I am proud to have been a part of the very first Dewberry Festival ever held in Milam County. The first Dewberry Festival was held in Cameron's City Park in 1999. The first ever event was the brainchild of Jeff Smitherman. In 2001 the event was combined with the Chamber of Commerce March Fest

One of the big events then and still today is the Dewberry Cook-Off. Jeff Smitherman called me as he was formulating plans and questioned me as to when the dewberries ripened in our area. I informed him that in an average year in Milam County, if there is such a thing, dewberries will be ripening around the first of May, and peak around mid-May.

He then questioned me about the last wekend in April, and I agreed that in some, but very few years, there would be some dewberries ripe during the later part of April. Especially when the last weekend of April fell close to May 1st. For whatever reason he decided the last weekend in April would be the date, and it has continued to be held the last weekend in April.

Now, with all that being said I too am a connoisseur of fine baked dewberry goods. However, the key to truly exquisite results relies on fresh dewberries. That is not to say that one cannot create a great cobbler or pie with frozen dewberries.

Nevertheless, for those of us that look forward to the first cup or two of fresh picked dewberries for that initial cobbler of the year there is no substitute for fresh main ingredients. Time to look at changing the event to the first weekend of May. Might not improve the event, but it will sure improve the chance of having a cobbler made from fresh dewberries. I believe it only fitting that the Dewberry Capitol of Texas have fresh dewberries available during the celebration.

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