POPLARVILLE, MS (WDAM) - For over 40 years, Althea Tavai has been making jams and jellies. Now, she's selling those items at various venues including the Blueberry Jubilee. The 35th annual event took place in downtown Poplarville on June 10.
"I've been making jellies since 1976," said Althea Tavai. "But, we've been coming to the Blueberry Jubilee for three years. This is our fourth year."
In addition to making an assortment of jellies, Althea's daughter makes a sweet batch of blueberry lemonade. A group of patrons gathered around their tent on Saturday to get their hands on both the lemonade and Althee's Jellies and Jams.
"Well, I love making jellies and jams," she said. "Hannah loves making the lemonade and we just love seeing the crowd. We enjoy serving people."
Tavai says she got her start in making jelly after visiting her sister-in-law back in 1975.
"… She (sister-in-law) gave me a case of blueberry jelly and I was hooked from then on and started making jellies," she said.
Tavai, who is a retired kindergarten teacher, makes the sweet and spicy treats in her spare time. She makes over forty flavors including blueberry, strawberry, mango, peach and pear.
"We try to grow as much of it as we can," said Hannah Tavai. "If we don't grow it, we try to get it locally. There are a few of the tropical flavors that, of course, we have to buy from the store. But, we try to hand pick what we can."
The Blueberry Jubilee is a celebration of the blueberry industry in Pearl River County. Officials say the event attracts thousands of blueberry enthusiasts and vendors annually. The festival features live entertainment, arts and crafts, storytelling and of course, food. Melanie Matthews, of Annapolis, Maryland and Shelby Aultman, of Sumrall, were first-time guests of the festival this year.
"I love blueberries," said Matthews smiling as the reason for attending the event.
Matthews and Aultman both tried Hannah's blueberry lemonade and couldn't stop raving about it afterwards.
"It's delicious," Matthews and Aultman said in unison.
As a local business owner, Althea appreciates the opportunities the Blueberry Jubilee provides for her and other owners. She encourages residents to continue to shop local to support the area.
"It's very important, because it's good for the economy, of course and our city and the local farmers" Althea Tavai said. "It keeps them in business. We like local and we know that we're pesticide free."
The Tavai's say the plan to continue shopping their jellies and jams at the Blueberry Festival as it gives them a way to connect with their community.
"We look forward to coming every year," said Hannah Tavai. "Every year there's different amounts of people, but it's always good crowds and nice people. So, we enjoy coming out."