Well, if nothing else, we learned that this is a BIG event.
One of the great things about doing this blog is that it has made Lisa and I attend events that we kept missing year after year. Chowderfest was one, and the Cranberry Festival in Chatsworth was another. We had heard good things about the Cranberry Festival, and were looking very much forward to attending. Luckily for us, this is a two-day event and we were able to go on Sunday.
We planned on getting an early start, but…well, you know how things go with plans and such…so we didn’t get out the door until after noontime. There’s essentially one road that runs through the town of Chatsworth: Route 532. It’s a pretty little twisty two-lane road that meanders its way through the Pine Barrens. Only a short sharing of the road with the straight and more business-like Route 72 breaks up the pleasant ride.
About two miles or so from the center of town, we started to see cars parked along both sides of the road. We had heard that this was a popular festival, but we were starting to get a sense that this was a really popular festival. We inched along for a little while with all the rest of the incoming traffic, then finally parked in one of the many temporary parking areas (making a little extra money on the side) and walked towards the crowds and tents.
Overwhelmed. That was out first reaction upon getting to the festival. There were tents everywhere! They spilled over both sides as well as up and down Route 532. We spent a good amount of time just wandering around, trying to get our bearings. Eventually, hunger became our focus, so we grabbed a pretzel braid and sampled the many kinds of mustard available there.
As we kept moving down the aisles of craft vendors, one thing started to strike Lisa and myself: where were the cranberries? I mean, this is a cranberry festival, right? I actually ended up asking a cop to help point us in the right direction as to where the cranberry vendors were located.
And there they were, right in front of the White Horse Inn, one of the true landmark buildings in the Pine Barrens region (it’s the building in the middle of the picture at the top). Because of the success of the Cranberry Festival, the century-old White Horse Inn has been renovated and preserved. We first went for the cranberry ice cream, since that was one thing we knew would be there and were very intrigued. Well, to be honest, the ice cream was more like sorbet (icy, not creamy) and it didn’t really have that cranberry tartness. It tasted more like raspberry than cranberry.
In addition to the ice cream, there were a number of cranberry baked goods on display. We decided to buy an apple-cranberry dumpling to bring home.
One tent that we could not pass up was Valenzano Winery and their cranberry wines. They had two offerings: cranberry and white cranberry. The regular cranberry wine tasted like cranberry juice cocktail, and the white cranberry was more like a cranberry wine cooler. I could see people serving those for the holidays as a novelty, but I couldn’t see myself seeking out either one.
The vendors were anywhere from your typical craft-y stuff to some truly beautiful hand-crafted items. You also had a number of food tents spread out throughout the event. We stumbled on a donut vendor that made these heavenly little donuts. They were light, airy and really delicious. And the machine they used was the cutest thing. I want one for the kitchen at home.
We then made the grand circuit all the way out to the outskirts of the event, where we found a small stand selling – if you can believe this – real fresh cranberries grown in the area. I know I’m being a little sarcastic here, but it did seem kind of odd that it took so long to actually find real cranberries at the, y’know, cranberry festival. And for only $1 for pint, it was a real bargain as well.
After giving Julian a chance to bounce on some bouncy rides, we made our way to one of the food court areas, which was where the live music was being played. Now we had been hearing this band all afternoon belting out rock and country classics, and doing a good job of it. As we started to pass the stage area, I looked and saw that the lead singer was someone I knew from high school. And I should have known this, because I just saw him a couple of weeks ago and he mentioned the name of his band. Anyway, if you’re interested, check out Jersey Bound with Kennedy High School graduate Greg Killian (Class of 1987).
Even though there were barbecue vendors, I decided (for once) to skip having some ‘cue and went for the Greek food. Lisa and I split a gyro and some spinach pie. Both were very tasty. Julian went for a quesadilla, which was very good. For $7, it had better have been good.
With the festival winding down, we took one more stroll down 532 to see the last few vendors we had somehow missed. We also took a peek into Buzby’s, which at one time was one of the hubs of activity in the Pine Barrens. Lynn Ochberg, whose grandfather was Jack Buzby, has recently written a book about her experiences growing up in Chatsworth called “Piney Princess: A Chatsworth Childhood”.
After three hours, we head for home. We had a very enjoyable time at the Cranberry Festival; however, we left with a feeling that cranberries were a minor player and not the star of the show. Maybe next year we’ll check out the cranberry festival up in Bordentown and compare the two. In the meantime, I need to find one of those donut makers.