County Fairs in Washington Include Cranberrian Fair
Washington state community celebrates a red berry, the cranberry, grown along the Pacific coast.
Gathering cranberries is made easier by flooding the bog the night before harvest.
October is National Cranberry Month, designated to celebrate the harvest season underway across the nation, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Each year, the small town of Ilwaco (population 1,000 and located on the southern tip of the Long Beach Peninsula in southwestern Washington state) attracts several thousand visitors to its three-day Cranberrian Fair.
In the 1890s, a few farmers took advantage of the local environment by introducing cranberries to the area. This tiny, red-fruited, shallow-rooted perennial grows low to the ground, and once a bog or field is established, it keeps producing a crop year after year. In fact, some of those pioneer cranberry bogs are still producing berries after more than a century.
The 2009 Cranberrian Fair is set for October 10 and 11 and will be the region’s 88th honoring this red berry. Visitors purchase a fair button at the local visitor’s center or Cranberrian Fair headquarters at the Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum in Ilwaco to tour the museum, check out the numerous historical displays, wander among numerous local craft booths and tables manned by volunteers and area merchants, or ride the trolley past cranberry farms to the Long Beach Peninsula Cranberry Museum. A wide array of cranberry products is also available for viewing, sampling or purchase.
According to Stacey Pierro, a longtime volunteer, tasty “cranberry bite” treats are available from Ilwaco Harbour Village merchants at local restaurants for visitors wearing their fair button. While in Ilwaco, check out the scenic boat harbor that is home to a commercial and charter fishing fleet.
At the museum, visitors stroll past a variety of exhibits and displays depicting the history of the local cranberry industry. The museum is open to the public except in the winter months.
Self-guided walking tours are conducted on nearby dikes surrounding 10 acres of cranberry bogs, and people can visit a local bog to watch workers harvest the cranberries. These bogs are under the supervision of the local extension office and research center that has been in the area since 1925, supporting and assisting local cranberry farmers. The center is located next to the museum.
The research center bogs are harvested about mid-October by members of the regional cranberry cooperative. During the Cranberrian Fair, volunteer cranberry growers like Bob Hamilton, a part-time cranberry grower with five acres of land, are available to answer questions.