The 33rd annual Chatsworth Cranberry Festival in Chatsworth, New Jersey, is being held on October 15 and 16, 2016. Human Diaries made a short visit on the first day, but we wish we could have spent a few more hours there!
We had a bit of a delay in leaving for New Jersey. We were first going to go to Double Trouble State Park in the Pine Barrens to walk on the trails and see some inactive cranberry fields. I was curious what they look like when they’re not flooded. Because of our late start, we decided to skip it, at least for this trip. Instead, we first went to Whitesbog Village in Browns Mills, where we hoped to see cranberries being harvested. I find it interesting that they harvest most cranberries by flooding the bogs. A woman we met today told us they use a machine that works kind of like big eggbeaters (apparently, that’s the nickname for the machines, which are actually called water reels), to loosen the berries from the vines and make them float. Then the farmers wade through the bog and scoop them up with large broom like tools, or they use a machine to pump them off the surface of the water. These berries are used for things such as juice or cranberry sauce since the process is hard on them. For fresh berries, they are dry harvested, which involves the farmers dragging mechanical rakes through the berry vines to comb the cranberries off of the vines.
Our GPS said we had arrived at the Whitesbog trail, but we needed to drive maybe another mile more down the unpaved road before we actually saw signs and buildings. We parked in the parking lot, and walked over to the information sign to see what was going on. There were several brochures, and a map behind glass. We took a brochure, which includes a map, and started walking. We arrived at the Whitesbog General Store, which was basically a souvenir/gift shop. The man sitting outside gave us some information about where to find the bogs, as well as some other places of interest. There are some cabins on the trail, and a barn that partially burned down. We walked down the trail a bit and found some bogs. It felt like we were in the woods and on the beach at the same time, because of the trees and the sand. We had been warned that the bogs there most likely were not the ones that were currently being harvested, and it turned out they weren’t. So, I did at least get to see what cranberry plants look like before the bogs are flooded. We walked around on the sandy trail, and took some pictures. Right before we left, we went into the general store and bought some chocolate covered cranberries, chocolate covered blueberries, blueberry jam, and some bottled sodas, including sarsaparilla! The lady there let us go in the back room to watch a short video about the cranberry bogs, and also told us there might be some harvesting going on across route 70 at Pine Barrens Native Fruits.
After paying for our items, and watching part of the video, we headed out to see if we could find a cranberry bog that was being harvested. In case anyone is interested, there is also a haunted hay ride there at Pine Barrens Native Fruits this weekend, during the evenings. They also offer cranberry harvest tours which start at 9 am, and can be booked online or by phone (888-CRANBOG).
We parked and walked around for just a few minutes, but it didn’t look like a place we should be visiting! We didn’t find anything, but we did see one spot where they had a small patch of berries floating on a strip of water. There were also bits of plants in it, so it wasn’t quite the same as how I remembered it from years ago. It gave us an idea of what a flooded bog looks like, but on a smaller scale.
We then made our way to the Chatsworth Cranberry Festival, which was the second part of the reason for our visit to New Jersey. There is no admission fee for the festival. We didn’t get there until around 3:00 pm, which was disappointing because the festivities ended at 4:00, which didn’t give us much time to spend there. We don’t have as much to report as we had planned, but we can tell you we made the most of that hour. We walked around, and enjoyed the sights and smells. We saw a Moonbounce for kids, as well as a rock climbing wall. On Sunday, there is also an antique and classic car show. There were plenty of festival foods – corn dogs, cheesesteaks, French fries, lemonade, and so much more. We bought some deep fried Oreos and zeppole (plain and cranberry, of course), and some funnel cakes. We looked for deep fried Twinkies, which we had years ago, but we didn’t find any this time. It’s possible we just didn’t find them, since we didn’t get the chance to see everything in our limited time there. Be aware, if you go, that many places only accept cash, but there are several ATMs if you look for them. The first one we saw was at the general store right in the middle of the activities, but there are also a few around some of the booths. They had some adorable things there in the general store, and the best smelling pine soap. We found a few booths that had fresh cranberries, so we got two pints ($1.25 per pint). We tried some once we got to the car, and I have to say they are the best fresh cranberries we’ve ever had! Some of them were actually almost sweet, and tasted somewhat like tart apples. Of course, there are other cranberry products, such as jams. There are many health benefits in cranberries, and it’s wonderful that we found some that taste so good without adding sugar.
If you decide to go to the festival, we want you to know that there is a fair amount of (free) street parking, which will require a little walking to get to the booths. We also saw some parking lots off the sides of the road for a $5 fee, which includes rides to the middle of the festival in dune buggies. There was one lot that was very close, which charges $10. One nice thing about getting there an hour before closing is that many parking spots were opening up, and we were able to park on the side of the road, and not too far away.
I was happy we remembered to take an empty shoulder bag, so we had somewhere to easily carry our purchases. Well, the ones we didn’t eat at the time!
If you have the time and live close enough, we recommend taking a trip to the Chatsworth Cranberry Festival! It was an enjoyable family outing.