Why hello there, and welcome back to All’s Fair, the segment where Jon goes to fairs, and tells you what was there. Today’s post covers the first half of a day where I hit up two different fairs, one in my hometown, and one less than 2 miles away. We’ll start, as I did that day, with the one in the neighboring town. So let’s hit the docks of Bremerton and Bask in the Blackberry Festival.
Sitting on the Dock of the Bay
AS I’ve noted several times in the past, I live in a town called Port Orchard. As that name should imply, it is situated on the water.
A situation that sometimes makes for some great views.
Or, at least, partly. As with any modern town, it’s outgrown what it once was, and now the town extends to locations as far as 10 miles from any kind of water. The town is also situated in a mildly interesting geographical area: the Kitsap peninsula. Which, as I CONSISTENTLY have to remind Alan, is NOT an island, no matter how many times he takes a ferry over to it.
There’s several islands AROUND it, but it itself is NOT an island.
That picture’s pretty good at showing the relative lay-out (hopefully. I always write these long before I put in the pictures, so I can only hope I find a solid picture of the Peninsula), and the most relevant point for this discussion: as you can (again, hopefully) see, Port Orchard is fairly close to a town called Bremerton. I’ve touched on the town before, but a quick referesher: Bremerton is a small city of around 30,000 people (roughly 3 times the size of Port Orchard) that is a HUGE employer for the region, as it’s home to the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, a US Naval…shipyard, duh, that employs somewhere in the range of 60,000 people. And if you noticed that that number is twice the size of the town hosting the Shipyard, congrats, you now understand the core of the local economy. I would pay you 100 literal dollars if you could find a SINGLE person in either town who did not have a family member or friend who does, or at one time did, work for the shipyard.
Because of this strategic utility, Bremerton has a fair bit of infrastructure built into it, including the well-established waterfront serving as a local transportation hub: Bremerton is the local ferry terminal, hauling hundreds of people to and from the local metropolis of Seattle every day. And, since you’ve got one huge ferry terminal 5 minutes’ walk from one of the largest regional employers, why not run a small ferry across the mile and a half of water between the terminal and a nearby source of labor? So it was that the foot ferries were formed, and I ended up on one on my way to the blackberry festival.
Hey, I said the water SOMETIMES made for a great view. Sometimes, it’s just kinda…water.
It should be noted that this wasn’t technically my plan. I had mentioned a couple times that I was interested in visiting The Taste of Port Orchard, because I felt it would be a good post for the site. Also for some mildly complicated reasons I’ll talk about in that post. BUT, my family noted, the Taste of Port Orchard was taking place at the same time as the Bremerton Blackberry Festival, a festival that has been running roughly as long as I’ve been alive, but that I have no memory of hearing about prior to this year. Heck, it took me three websites to find out WHY Bremerton has a Blackberry Festival in the first place, and my source ended up being an uncited paragraph on Wikipedia, so I say what I say next with the unfounded confidence that a 7th grader uses in their history assignment they started the night before: Apparently, the area the festival takes place in used to be a thicket of blackberries, that were cut up to make room for expansion, and people just…decided to use the berries? Wanted to honor the size of the thicket?
Just needed an excuse for people to go enjoy Labor Day, one of the last “surefire” good weather weekends in the year?
As I was saying before wandering into the unsourced claims of history: when my family learned that there were two festivals that day, a $2 ferry ride of 7 minutes apart from each other, we decided to go to both, because we’re very big on efficiency when wasting time. Really, we will METICULOUSLY plan driving routes and dinner plans on days where we’re goofing off for maximal utility, building lunch and dinner locations around relative position, timing our stays at venues, etc. For my recent birthday party, I, a man who decided to tackle the paper that would decide if he graduated college or not in his last WEEK of school, who committed to driving 11 hours to goof off in Montana for a weekend on a whim, devised a 5-step, 6-hour schedule of when to start cooking various dishes and prepping ingredients. A process that was immediately upended and destroyed by a 4-hour long set of misadventures that morning, which is really kind of illustrative of why I don’t really like planning: when I do make plans, they just go to shit anyway, so why not just skip the stress and make it up along the way?
None of which is about this festival, because…well, because I wasn’t in the best of places while we were there. Not in the sense that I was depressed, or angry, or anything like that. No, I just hadn’t had breakfast yet, so my brain wasn’t running in high gear. Or even its normal, sputtering, over-choked gear. So I actually kind of forgot to take many pictures once I was actually there. Like, I know for a fact that I bought a Mango-based hot sauce at the end of the day, and admired a bit of wood-inlay art that was $2,000, but I have no pictures of them. Instead, I took a picture of THIS booth.
It is, of course, an Ice Cream parlor.
Which isn’t a bad thing. These guys are Garlic Gourmay. They’re a family founded business that started up in the 90’s, and has been showing up at local fairs and festivals for at least 20 years. I know this, because as a child, I helped my grandparents by WORKING at local fairs and festivals, and I remember their products. They specialize in Garlic-“based” rubs, spice mixes, and sauces, though they dabble in pickled vegetables and dips as well. And I’ve personally been buying their products for at least 15 years or so.
And while I’m happy I at least have a picture of the booth, it’s irritating that this is the only picture I had of what we bought from them. Luckily, since I’ve been buying this stuff for 15 years, I can identify most of these bottles by color alone. The big teal one on the left is “Great Garlic Dressing” mix (essentially a Garlic Ranch flavoring powder), next to it is the Sweet Hot Garlic Mustard, the bigger bottles are stir-fry sauces, green is Garlic Gourmay (a garlicky Teriyaki) and the Yellow is Garlic Ginger, hidden in the bag is the Backyard Inferno barbecue sauce, and the smaller mixes are Jamaican Jerk, Killer Cajun, Super Thailicious, and Garlic Mesquite Rub.
Now, since I don’t have pictures of our haul, I guess the logical thing to do is to at least cover the foods we got there. Now, when I noted that I hadn’t eaten breakfast yet, you might have logically inferred that we arrived in the morning. You’re right, but I warn you against making judgments like that in the future. The other day, I had breakfast at 3 PM, because of a series of mistakes and miscommunications, so…you know, watch it. Anyway, the point was that, while at this juncture we had been at the fair for at least 40-50 minutes, it was still probably only around 10:45 in the morning. And we were planning on going to an event called “The TASTE of Port Orchard” directly afterwards. So Nate settled on a fairly modest breakfast snack option: the Donut Bacon Cheeseburger.
No, seriously, that was what he had. It’s a thing we make in America.
Yeah, Nate had decided that, if he was going to fairs, then his diet was toast, so may as well swing for the fences. Which is a laudable line of thinking, overall. Myself, I went with something more restrained, more elegant. I went with…the exact same Thai food I had at the Kitsap County Fair.
Yeah, who’d have thought that Mr “Try new Things”, this big adventurous chef would see the same stand he’d eaten at something like a week or two beforehand, and go “Yeah, that’s what I’m doing!” In my defense, I love Thai food, so shut up, and also, it WAS a different order. Rather than go with red curry chicken combo again, I went with Pad Thai and Steamed Veggies, figuring something like that would be light and healthy enough to not interfere with all the food I was going to eat at the next fair. I also added a chicken Satay for some lean protein. And let me tell you: this combo was MUCH better than the other one. The other one was perfectly fine. Not quite ‘good’, in my estimation, but by no means bad. But the chicken Satay came with ladles of peanut sauce, and that sauce on the veggies and rice was really damn good.
You may have noticed that I had a berry-based libation with my meal. Well, the only place we could find to sit and eat our brunch was the beer garden, and while the beer garden didn’t mandate that you had to drink anything to be in there, I felt bad about taking up a table and not helping pay the bartenders’ wages. So I grabbed a Blackberry Vodka Lemonade.
Funnily, the ONLY Blackberry-based product we got from the Blackberry Festival.
Which does mean that I started drinking before noon on this day, but honestly, that’s the least surprising part of this story.
Overall, the Blackberry Festival had a lot going for it. It was, in my personal estimation, a little small and unidirectional, but there was a variety of vendors and food options, and things that I spotted that I wanted to try, but didn’t have the time or stomach space this particular trip. I’m sure I’ll be back sometime to rectify those missed opportunities.
Sorry if this post is a little late today, I was up rather late writing it, and then found myself in a worrying situation where it seems my inflatable mattress has sprung a leak, which really messed with my sleep, so I had to recover on a couch and ended up sleeping until 1. I hope that it’s not truly leaking, as if it is, that would be the SECOND of these things I’ve screwed up in like, 4 months. Which is a “great” lead-in to remind you all about my PATREON PAGE! By giving as little as $1 a month, you can keep this site funded and functional, and allow me to invest the money from my day-job into fixing the beds I keep breaking. Of course, we don’t all have the spare cash to throw around supporting madmen and their bad beds, so if you want to hold onto your money, remember that it’s also a huge help to just share our content, talk about the cool facts you learned, and otherwise spread our message and existence. Maybe invite a friend to like our Facebook page. Or not. It’s the internet, you’re the one in control here.
MONDAY: YOU KNOW, I TOTALLY FORGOT THAT I HAD TWO VIABLE POST OPTIONS. AND I JUST REALIZED WE ACTUALLY HAVE THREE. SO I’M GOING TO CHECK IN WITH PATREON AND BRING YOU ONE OF THE FOLLOWING: A SPICY RICE SIDE, A FAMILIAR FRENCH FOOD, OR A TRAINWRECK AND ATTEMPTED RECOVERY.
THURSDAY: I’M GOING TO TALK ABOUT TWISTING YOUR FOOD. NO, NOT LIKE PRETZELS. LOOK, YOU’LL UNDERSTAND WHEN YOU GET THERE, OKAY?