(Aug. 2) Thousands of visitors are expected to attend the 44th annual National Blueberry Festival on Aug. 9-12 in South Haven, Mich., where an array of activities, contests and events are planned to kick off the 2007 blueberry season.

“This is the only national blueberry festival in the country,” said Laurie Mills, co-chairwoman and secretary of the festival’s planning committee. “It was started to celebrate blueberry picking season, and it’s just grown from there.”

One popular attraction that will coincide again with this year’s festival is the Wal-of-Blueberries, sponsored by the South Haven Wal-Mart store and C.H. Robinson Worldwide Inc., Eden Prairie, Minn., a co-managed blueberry vendor for Wal-Mart.

The Wal-of-Blueberries is roughly 40 feet long and 12 feet high, said Brian Kelch, sourcing supervisor for C.H. Robinson, who works with the store to construct the display each year.

Kelch said that he and a co-worker would set up the display in the produce department of the South Haven Wal-Mart the evening of August 8, where it would remain until the end of the festival.

He estimates they use 14 pallets, or about 2,200 empty blueberry boxes, to construct the display. An additional four pallets of pint-sized containers of blueberries will also be delivered to stock and restock the display throughout the festival.

All of the blueberries in the Wal-of-Blueberries come from North Bay Produce, Traverse City, Mich.

This year’s Wal-of-Blueberries is the fifth to be displayed at the South Haven Wal-Mart, Kelch said, and each year’s promotion has been successful in increasing blueberry sales and shoppers’ awareness of local produce.