46th Blueberry Arts Festival poster

Courtesy of Ketchikan Area Arts and Humanities Council

Ketchikan's beloved Blueberry Arts Festival is coming back for its 46th year.

The annual summer event that traditionally takes place during the first weekend in August has a full schedule for 2021, with some events having slight alterations for mitigation purposes, according to the Ketchikan Area Arts and Humanities Council that organizes the festival.

One of the hallmark components of the Blueberry Arts Festival is the annual logo design contest — headed up by KAAHC — and won this year by Cameo McRoberts.

McRoberts' design will appear on flyers, merchandise and apparel for this year's festival.

The logo features 44 small, colorful blueberries in rows, and one blueberry — distanced from the others — eclipsed by a mask-wearing coronavirus molecule, representing 2020's postponed 45th annual Blueberry Arts Festival. The last blueberry is big, with the number '46' written in large print, representing this year's festival.

McRoberts' design was chosen as the winning logo by a three-person selection panel, according to KAAHC Program Director Katy Posey.

Posey said during a Friday interview that the logo design contest is held yearly.

All entries must include the year of the festival, the location (Ketchikan) and the number of the festival — this year, it's the 46th annual, Posey explained.

Artists could this year submit up to two original logo designs with a deadline of May 14.

"After we received all of our submissions, — and we had 12 submissions this year — we have a secret selection panel meet," Posey said. "And they discuss what their favorite one is and they have to come to a decision before they're allowed to leave the room — it's kind of a little joke that we have — and they chose Cameo McRoberts."

"We thought it was really clever how Cameo represented every single year of the festival with a blueberry," she continued. "Some of the words that they (the panel) used was that it was light, happy, and that they loved the detail, like when they looked at it, they kept seeing more things. And they were really excited about what it represented, which was COVID behind us."

But the panel also chose the design because it stands out.

"They felt that in years to come, people would want to be able to see this year's shirt, like they really wanted it to stand out as a special year," Posey said.

McRoberts explained to the Daily News on Tuesday morning that she was away from Ketchikan visiting Seattle when the contest winner was announced.

"It was very exciting because (KAAHC) announced it, I think, while we were on the ferry ­– so I don't have cell service," McRoberts said, noting that several friends and family members had congratulated her on social media and through messages that she read upon returning to the First City. "... And so that was a really nice way to come home."

The logo was one of the first art projects that McRoberts had made using a digital design program.

McRoberts said she had a similar concept in mind last year, but COVID-19, as well as a lack of familiarity with digital design programs, halted progress.

But with the earnings from her January exhibit in the Main Street Gallery, "Taken out of Context", McRoberts purchased an iPad and ProCreate (an Apple graphic design program) to start learning a new medium.

"I've just always been really curious about digital art and about digital drawing and graphic design, and so I started watching some YouTube and figuring out how to use this program," she said.

McRoberts' design was inspired by artist Andy Warhol. At the time of her design's creation, she had been reading books about Warhol's art from the library.

"He did a lot of things with repetition, and with printing things in repetition, and printing simple objects and so I started thinking about the blueberry," McRoberts recalled. "The ubiquitous blueberry that is the Blueberry Festival. So I kind of wanted to play around with looking like they're photocopied and looking like each one is just a little bit different because it's been copied multiple times."

The 45th blueberry of the design, of course, "had to be six feet away" from the other berries, McRoberts said.

She spent a lot of time looking at images of the coronavirus — "And it's blue and red and kind of looks like a blueberry, if a blueberry was an alien virus," she said.

But, she wanted to make sure the design was a "subtle" method of recognizing COVID-19's impact on the festival.

"I didn't want it to be, I guess, flippant toward the pandemic, because we all know that was pretty stressful and not always something to joke about," McRoberts said.

McRoberts was happy to know that her design will be joining the "hall of fame" of other artists who have won the contest, including her mother, who won two years ago.

"I grew up here and the Blueberry Festival has sort of been this timepiece that you sort of gauge your summer by," she said. "And it was really sad last year when it didn't happen."

More advance coverage of the 46th Annual Blueberry Arts Festival and its scheduled events will be published in a future edition of the Daily News.

— Daily News Staff Writer Scott Bowlen contributed to this story.