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In this Blueberry Patch, free spirits thrive

Nick Hildebrandt, 21, performs a triquetra trick with poi lights at the 12th annual Burning Blueberry Brother festival in Gulfport.
Nick Hildebrandt, 21, performs a triquetra trick with poi lights at the 12th annual Burning Blueberry Brother festival in Gulfport.
Published Jan. 4, 2015

GULFPORT

The Blueberry Patch experiment began July 7, 1977 — 7/7/77 — in the back yard of a man named Dallas Bohrer, who had strong beliefs about numerology, economics, sake, marijuana, and freedom of music, art and the written word. He believed that being an artist and living free are the hardest things a person can do. He wanted to create a world that championed the way things should be, hidden away in the world as it is. He called it sharevival: share to survive and survive to share.

In the decades that followed, Bohrer was that world's Peter Pan, Timothy Leary and George Washington. The Blueberry Patch, as he called his backyard, became known as Florida's oldest artist retreat, and anyone who passed through his gates left their worries behind. Some came for one night. Some became volunteers who came every Saturday (at 11:11 a.m., the importance of numbers again) to do chores and contribute to the cause. Some, like Sherry Mayberry, came and stayed. About a year ago she married a resident sharevivalist, Roger Mayberry, in a ceremony at the Patch. She bought a little house nearby and considers Dallas' backyard philosophy to be her calling.

"What does the Patch mean to me?" she said. "They are the family I got to pick. My tribe."

Sadly, Bohrer died July 6, leaving behind the question: What will happen to Neverland when Pan is gone?

On the night of the 12th annual Burning Blueberry Brother festival, genies popped in and out of a tent-sized "bottle." Acoustic music played on a main stage while a mohawked woman fused witchcraft and house music on another. A costume dragon wandered through a crowd of fairies, gypsies, sheiks and freaks. An herbal smell swirled throughout the decorated trees and ultraviolet glowing corners. A middle-aged man wearing a red silk robe watched with dilated pupils as a college student streaked colorful LED-lit balls on a string into fascinating patterns. The Electric Kool-Aid Dallas Test beats on.