GREENSTONE – The first registration for Squatchberry Festival arrived Wednesday, May 23rd. The form came special delivery, courtesy of Avian Air. The Literary Festival runs from Friday to Sunday in Geraldton, June 29th to July 1st. The first registrant, Big John, said he found the form in a squatchberry patch near Manitouwadge. It looked like a good deal, so he filled it out, cut a money order, and attached it to a friendly raven.
Many folks know Big John, trapper and miner. He attended school in Geraldton under the moniker of John Lavoie.
Asked if he knew Squatchberry Lavoie, Big John replied, “Yeah, like a brother to me. Couldn’t skin a beaver or fire a round to save his life. He’s a scribbler. The family doesn’t talk about him much.”
Asked if the squatchberries were ready to harvest, John replied, “They’re good green or ripe. I was poking around my favourite patch when I spotted the form.”
How does one recognize a squatchberry? “They’re highly recognizable. They look like a blueberry, taste like a strawberry, and feel like a raspberry.”
Many people have been led to believe that the fruit is a mythical berry, symbolic of Northwestern Ontario. It became notorious with the publication of The Squatchberry Journal from 1975 to 1984. The Journal featured regional writers and artists.
Big John described his finding the registration form. He had elbowed his way into the squatchberry patch, competing with various critters including a spring-hungry black bear. “I didn’t rough him up too much,” he said. “His scratches will heal fast.”
How did the registration form end up in the patch? “You heard of the moccasin telegraph? The grapevine? The gossip circuit? Well, it was none of those.” That answer sure clarified things.
He added that most folks just log online at SquatchberryFestival.ca and print out the form. But that’s a sissified way. “Find your own squatchberry patch,” he advised. “There’s loads of them. Berries too.”
Big John said he was looking forward to the Squatchberry Banquet. “I hear there’s good food, good conversation, and good laughs. Failing that, I could just sit back and listen to Arthur Black.”
Arthur Black had no printable comment.
Early registrants are first in line for seating at the banquet.