It’s great to be a cute small town. It’s even greater to be a cute small town that’s blessed with the bounty of a singular bodacious fruit.
Here are ten “world capitals” of fruit across the USA, representing the best small towns where, at one magical time of the year, all things fruit reign and local festivals celebrate their abundant, sun-kissed harvests kick up in high gear.
Top Picks for You
WHERE: Ponchatoula, Louisiana
California may produce more strawberries, but Ponchatoula’s are hands-down bigger and sweeter. Some say nutrients carried down the Mississippi River are the secret to the sugary taste. Whatever the case, this small town has reigned since 1968 as the official-by-proclamation Strawberry Capital of the World. When the fruit ripens February through Mother’s Day, you’re in for amazing strawberry shortcake, strawberry pie, even fried strawberries—though there’s nothing as good as plain old-fashioned strawberries and cream. Be sure to pose by the larger-than-life strawberry across the street from city hall.
Festival Town: The Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival in April features live music, carnival rides, a queen and king procession, berry-eating contests, and big crowds.
WHERE: Hammonton, New Jersey
With blueberries’ highly touted health benefits, you’d think that the little town of Hammonton in South Jersey would be more famous. But that’s part of its charm, to remain incognito while producing some of the world’s best blueberries. It’s a little known fact that the cultivated blueberry was actually “born” hereabouts. While wild blueberries were gathered for centuries by Native Americans, it took Elizabeth Coleman White—aka the Blueberry Queen—to domesticate the wild berries in the early 20th century, thereby introducing a new crop to the world market. Thank your holy antioxidants for that.
Festival Town: The Red, White and Blueberry Festival takes place in June, when all things blueberry—plants, cannolis, pies, and fresh berries—are on hand. Live music, craft vendors, and eating competitions are all part of the fun.
Blackberries and Marionberries
WHERE: Lowell, Oregon
As you’re shopping in your local supermarket, buying frozen blackberries for your breakfast smoothie, you can bet those berries most likely were picked at the peak of ripeness in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. There, the blackberry craze ignites as the fresh berries ripen in August, and farm stands and pick-your-own farms—notably around Canby, Oregon City, and Molalla—showcase all things blackberry. Driving loops link the best sites. Keep an eye out for marionberries as well, the so-called “Cabernet of blackberries,” overflowing at farm stands especially in, naturally, Marion County.
Festival Town: Honestly, Oregon hosts lots of blackberry festivals. One of the best is Lowell’s week-long Blackberry Jam Festival at the end of July in the southern Willamette Valley.