By Ryann Daddio
“Welcome to my backyard!” said Dallas Bohrer, founder of the Blueberry Patch, to strangers entering his backyard for many years prior to passing away the night before the Patch’s 37th Anniversary, on July 6, 2014. A single acre of land filled with culture and unique artistic beings lies in St. Petersburg’s backyard. Antiques and home-made artifacts nest the Patch; everything from cluttered Key-West style bars to obscenely large ornaments dangling from the trees can be found. In Gulfport, under a canopy of trees full of intricate lights, hundreds gather four times a month to jam out and share positive vibes with one another. The Blueberry Patch is a place to go to view and support local art and artists.
On the 1st, 7th, 11th and 22nd of each month, artists, musicians, and those looking for entertainment and a good time gather in Gulfport at 4923 20th Avenue South around sundown and wait for the festivities of the Blueberry Patch to begin. Every guest of the Patch is required to pay a five dollar entrance fee; though the Blueberry Patch is a non-profit organization, the money goes towards the survival and maintenance of the Patch. If unable to pay the five dollars at the door, Patch goers may attend Saturday volunteer days where they would make artistic contributions towards the Patch or help maintain the plants and vegetable garden in order to receive a voucher to get in free one of the nights that the Patch is open. The first and seventh of the month are open mic nights where locals will come and sing or perform one by one, the eleventh of each month is open jams night where many people bring instruments to play together, and the twenty-second of each month a scheduled band performs. The Blueberry Patch is where many go to enjoy local artists as well as meet people with similar interests in life or the arts. When asked what makes the Blueberry Patch special from other places, Emily Baumgartner of Seminole said “The different kinds of people who go there; it’s a judge-free zone and that’s exactly what people need when going to share their art or music.” “They actually want you to be yourself there,” she added.
The goal of the Blueberry Patch is to serve the people and the artists; when they need a place to go and talk to like-minded people, the Patch is there. When artists need somewhere to go to share and express their work, the Patch is there full of people providing positive feedback. It’s a place to become as well as discover local artists. Cailee Fazzini of Largo taught herself to play the ukulele and has performed at the Patch twice this year during open jam nights. “It feels amazing to be playing music alongside my friends on stage,” said Fazzini. “To look out and see the reaction we get from pure strangers is almost even better,” she stated. Within the Patch, there are “Patch-Pals”, which are people who believe in everything that the Blueberry Patch believes in and shares it throughout the Patch with strangers. During a visit to the Patch, they may stop you, introduce themselves, and share with you a little history on the Patch. The Blueberry Patch is a place for locals to go to express and be themselves and share positive vibrations. Bohrer once said, “My creation is joy and if you don’t feel it, you’re not in the right place.”
The Patch is somewhere for locals to appreciate the arts, as Bohrer did. The Blueberry Patch is the longest surviving artistic retreat in Florida and it continues to keep progressing and spreading love and peace in the local society. The vision of the Blueberry Patch is “sharevival”, which Bohrer translated into “sharing to survive and surviving to share.” It began with an acre of land, a canopy of trees, and a small stage for entertainment. Over the years exotic plants and even vegetables have been grown throughout the Patch. Patch-goers are welcome to bring their own art as well; wood, glass, brick, and steel items are often brought and left behind as contributions to the Patch. Whether it be metal signs on the fence, or giant picture frames hanging from the trees, there are tons of eye-opening artifacts seen in the Patch. There are few rules in the Patch, which include not leaving trash behind such as beer bottle caps or cigarette butts and no outside animals, though there are some Patch dogs and cats that live there. Basically, play nice with others and leave the Blueberry Patch as it was found.
Though Dallas Bohrer has passed away, his vision and masterpiece lives on and keeps spreading the “sharevival” ways. He has left behind his canvas, an artistic work in its own and a place to create and appreciate art with unique people.