Saturday, October 6, 2012

The World's Largest Cranberry Festival

For my non-Wisconsin readers--I am from Tomah, Wisconsin which calls itself the "Gateway to Cranberry Country".  Wisconsin isn't just known for its dairy farming and cheese production.  We are also known for our cranberry production.  At least 1/3 of all cranberries produced every year are grown in Wisconsin.  Massachusetts seems to get a lot of publicity about their cranberries but Wisconsin actually produces twice as many as Massachusetts.  Some of the cranberry growers in Tomah and Warrens have been producing for 150 years--back to the mid-1800's. And the number of bogs in the area just keeps on growing.  My sister-in-law, Tess, works for Ocean Spray at their plant in Tomah.  She makes Craisins.  They make juice there as well.

I didn't plan my vacation around Cranfest but that happened to be the weekend that I chose to go to Wisconsin.  It was with mixed excitement that I wanted to go.  I have heard stories about how much it had grown from its humble beginnings 40 years ago.  I was there when it first started.  I marched in the parade every year while I was in junior high and high school.  Sherrill and I participated in the talent competition one year.  It was a wonderful small community celebration.  So it was with great curiosity that I wanted to actually see it first hand but didn't want to experience the huge crowds that I had heard about.

Dane wanted to go to the pancake breakfast at the Catholic Church so Dad, Shirley, Darren, Dane, Bill and I got up bright and early to take the bus out to Warrens at 0700 to get there early.  The women of the Catholic Church make cranberry syrup for the pancakes so that was nice to get to have a bit of a different taste to breakfast.

To give you some perspective--the population of Warrens is 360 people.  It is a very small town.  There were vendor canopies everywhere.  There were over 1200 vendors that came to sell their crafts, antiques, food, etc.  It was pretty overwhelming and there was no way you could possibly look at everything that was there.  I enjoy looking at a few things but am not really into looking at a bunch of crafts and definitely didn't want to buy anything that I had to bring home with me on the plane--so I wasn't super interested in that portion of the festival although that seems to be what brings most of the visitors there.  Over the course of the three days of the festival--over 140,000 people attended.  We got to see a couple of celebrities.  We saw Miss Wisconsin--the guys were really wanting to get their picture taken with her LOL.  Darren spotted Gilbert Brown--a former Green Bay Packer--and said I should try to get my picture taken with him.  He was out shopping himself and wasn't at his "booth" so he had to refuse.  I did sneak a picture of him talking to some of the vendors though.  The guys and I didn't want to stay that long so we were only there a couple of hours--just long enough to get a taste.  So I didn't see the huge crowds.  But I saw a picture on the internet and the number of people in the street could have rivaled New York City.  I don't know how anyone could possibly move or see anything there with that many people.  Dad and Shirley decided to stay for the parade.  It would have been nice to see that as well but decided to go home with the guys.

So I can now say that I have been to the Cranfest and seen how Warrens transforms itself into a big city every year at harvest time.

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