Kids love candy, parents love nutritious fruit. Since berries are nature’s candy, everyone wins! The 2nd Annual Oregon Berry Festival will be sprouting up in the Pearl District this month, and delicious, succulent Oregon berries will be featured in everything from chocolate to beer. Families will get their fill of berries via samples galore, and the chance to taste and buy the best berries in this season’s bounty. This festival promises to be a berry, berry good time, and did we mention it’s free?

When to go: July 20 & 21, 2012. From 12:00 pm to 6:00 pm on Friday, July 20th and from 11:00 am to 4:30 pm on Saturday, July 21st.

Admission, Getting There, & Parking: Admission is free! The Oregon Berry Festival will be held at the Ecotrust event space in the Jean Vollum Natural Capitol Center in the Pearl District. The festival is located in the north end of the parking lot and in the conference center and terrace. For a map of the festival location click here. MAX and Street Car or biking are the best options for getting to the festival. Organizers will have extra bike parking available as well. If you’re driving, some of the best parking options are: Smart Park at Station Place: 720 NW Marshall, U Park: NW Glisan & Park, and U Park: NW Hoyt & 6th Ave. Here is a map with additional parking options.

Meet Your Oregon Berry Farmer Farm Tours: Take your kids on a free farm tour to introduce them to the farmers who grow their food, and to encourage their understanding and appreciation of where yummy berries come from. In conjunction with the Oregon Berry Festival, Unger Farms is offering a farm tour on each day of the festival: Friday, July 20th at 3:00 pm or Saturday, July 21st and 1:00 pm. Drive out tothe farm and you’ll meet Matt and Kathy Unger and their family, and learn the inner workings of a berry farm. You can also purchase fresh picked Oregon berries to sink your teeth into back home, as you savor the memories of your day. Tip: mention the “Oregon Berry Festival” and receive $1.00 off any purchase you make at Unger Farms.

What to do at the festival: Feast on berries galore! Delicious berries will be at the heart of luscious food and drink items at the festival including jams, pies, cobblers, chocolates, natural blueberry soda, Marionberry BBQ sauce… even red raspberry beer for adults. Bring your appetite, because there will be plenty of samples cropping up all over the event.

The festival has two levels, the outdoor market and the indoor trade show, so make sure you see both. Check out the face painting booth, The Guilded Cat and The Children’s Booth to decorate a berry hallock, and to do word finds & coloring sheets that identify the parts of Oregon berries.

There’s a great line-up of family friendly entertainment on both days of the festival. On July 20th from 1:15 pm – 2:00 pm and July 21st from 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm, don’t miss magician Mark Benthimer’s show, which fuses mind-boggling magic with comedy and family fun. And tap your toes to the tunes of The Earthsinger, Dave Orleans, who performs family style music by singing along with his guitar, banjo, ukulele, and additional instruments crafted from recycled materials. Orleans performs at the festival from 5:10pm – 6:00 pm on July 20th, and from 12:00 pm-1:00 pm on July 21st. Double your dose of great music on the 21st by watching Maya & Tyler perform from 11:00 am – 12:00 pm. Young singer Maya Van Londen has an amazing voice, which is complemented by her peer, Tyler Murphy on guitar.

Top Tips for Parents Attending with Children: With kids in tow, it always helps to know precisely where the restroom is, so note that there are indoor bathrooms with changing tables on the 2nd floor near the trade show. Another top tip, bring wipes for your kids, because after sampling juicy berries, they will most likely need their mouths and hands cleaned!

Where to eat: As mentioned above, bring your appetite because there will be lots of samples and great food items for purchase. If you get your fill of berries at the festival, and are looking for additional options, head for a bite to eat at kid-favorite Laughing Planet Cafe, which is also located in the EcoTrust building.

Bonus: For a chance to win an awesome bike from The Bike Gallery, grab a free passport at the information desk and simply gather 5 stamps from vendors to enter the drawing.

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If you want a souvenir of this fun event, there are children’s T-shirts for sale at the information desk.

Online: oregonberryfestival.com

Do your kids love berries as much as ours do? What’s their favorite? 

— Beth Shea