When the subject of blueberries arises, Maine and Michigan typically become part of the conversation. Few folks realize Florida's history growing blueberries began in the late 1800's. This sweet, tasty crop is likely one of the state's best kept, and most delicious secrets. To help celebrate Florida's blueberry season, Mount Dora will have it's inaugural Blueberry Festival on April 18 in Sunset Park downtown.
Although the berries have a lengthy history here, it wasn't until the 1970's that the current hybrid cultivar, the Southern Highbush blueberry, was introduced. By the mid 1980's mass plantings took root in north central and northwestern Florida and the industry has grown ten fold.
Although Michigan leads with the largest crop, hundreds of small blueberry farms have popped up in Florida over the last 30 years. Florida produces four to five pounds of berries per bush, compared to the northern plants that can yield up to twenty pounds per plant. Fortunately, Florida's blueberry season differs from Michigan's, which makes local blueberry farming a viable business. Florida's season can run from December through April, but the U-Pick season is typically only in April.
Here's a list of the nearby farms where you can pick fresh blueberries:
It's not every day that Hollywood comes knocking. For Mount Dora that day came in 1981 when the film "Honky Tonk Freeway" hit theaters and downtown was doused in Milk of Magnesia pink to assume the fictional roll of Ticlaw, a small Central Florida town.
The comedy featured popular stars of that decade including Beau Bridges, Beverly D'Angelo, Terry Garr, and William Devane. The film was a box office bomb and pulled from theaters after the first week. At the time, it was one of the biggest box office flops in history. Its only claim to fame was being nominated for a Golden Razzie for Worst Original Song.
The good news is that due to its limited exposure, Mount Dora is still due its fifteen minutes of fame while locals can tell countless stories of their experiences as extras on the set and watching the water-skiing elephant on Lake Dora. Hollywood, the door remains open.
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