By Ryan S. Murphy
More than two decades ago, Bordentown held a small crafter’s festival where independent vendors sold their wicker baskets, jewelry and other hand-made products.
The weekend festival, now known as the Bordentown Cranberry Festival, is on again, sponsored by Ocean Spray, and is set to be held on Oct. 6-7, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The festival is a favorite in the region, particularly for local restaurants and food vendors.
Doug Palmieri, president of the Downtown Bordentown Association, said there are a wide variety of options at the festival, which has always been held on Farnsworth Avenue from Park Street to Burlington Street.
The recent news that Ocean Spray will be moving its Bordentown facility to Pennsylvania in the near future has raised concerns regarding the survival of the festival, but Jackie Reed, one of the primary organizers for the event, is confident that the situation with the festival will remain the same.
“It is true that the facility is leaving, and Ocean Spray can’t participate in the festival this year,” Reed said, “but they’re still sponsoring the festival. They’re very loyal to us, and we’re loyal to them.”
Palmieri agreed that the festival won’t be going anywhere in the foreseeable future, so hopefully cranberry enthusiasts will continue to flock to Bordentown for decades to come.
Some of the festival favorites, he said, include Greek food, specialty hand-made jewelry, wine tastings and even hand-engraved mugs filled with root beer.
And of course, there’s plenty for cranberry fans to enjoy. Everything from cranberry pie to cranberry bread, jelly and even cranberry-flavored wine will be offered at various stands.
It’s this blend of crafts and food that brings in up to 45,000 people each year. Most of those people are from the local area, but the show’s popularity has brought nationwide attention.
Vendors from Virginia, Ohio and Massachusetts travel to the festival because of the opportunity to show off their products in a thriving part of the Northeast.
Reed said one of the most popular features of the festival is a car show held on Saturday, Oct. 6 from noon-4 p.m. The show will feature between 100 and 125 vintage cars.
“The car show is very popular with husbands,” Reed said. “So there’s really something for everyone.”
For families concerned about what to do with the kids, the festival has that covered as well. One of the streets is always closed off for games and attractions the kids will appreciate. Youngsters can enjoy inflatable castles, a petting zoo, a rock-climbing wall, henna tattoos and more.
Adults, on the other hand, can enjoy the beautiful weather with some al fresco dining while listening to live music from the Princeton School of Rock, which will be performing Sunday on West Church Street. Considering the endless shopping options, which include long-standing and new artisans, fine foods, wine, baked goods, live music, attractions for kids and the car show, one might wonder how such an event can be pulled off so seamlessly year after year.
Palmieri said it’s all due to the hard work of organizers like Jackie Reed and Patti DeSantis. Reed, who has been making the festival go off without a hitch since its inception 23 years ago, said it requires a lot of paperwork over a long period of time.
“The festival is always held in October, so I begin working on it some time in January,” she said. “It takes a long time to get through the necessary permits and paperwork.”
And when it comes to possible weather-related issues, Palmieri is undaunted.
“If it rains, it rains. There’s no rain date for an event this size,” he said. “It just wouldn’t be possible with all of the different vendors scheduled for these two days. But in all the years I’ve had this job, rain has never been a problem. In fact, it’s usually been warmer than expected.”
More information on this event can be found online at downtownbordentown.com. For specific questions regarding the festival, call Jackie Reed at (609) 298-8066.