by Bob Groeneveld/Special to the Langley Advance
It’s fun, it’s delicious, and it’s history.
That just about sums up the annual Fort Langley Cranberry Festival, which this year takes over the village from 10 o’clock in the morning to 4 in the afternoon on Saturday, Oct. 6.
This year will be “similar to the last couple of years,” said organizer Meghan Neufeld.
But there will be something new – a “tweak” – to make it a bit better, added the Fort Langley BIA executive director.
“This year we’re doing a self-guided cranberry field tour, shuttling people from the festival to the cranberry field,” Neufeld said.
“We’ll have a shuttle drop you off at the field and come back and pick people up and come back and pick you up. So you’ll be able to watch a farmer in the field when it’s flooded, harvesting the berries.”
The farmer hosting the guided tours produces the berries for Ocean Spray, the Cranberry Festival’s biggest sponsor.
“We have 10,000 pounds of cranberries that get donated every year by Ocean Spray,” Neufeld explained. “They are local B.C. berries, and we sell them, and that is essentially how we pay for the festival.”
Neufeld has been heading up the festival since 2013.
“This is my favourite event of the year,” she said. “The first year, I’m not going to lie, was a bit terrifying – it’s a big event to take on.”
As usual, Neufeld noted, the festival this year will offer “100 marketplace centres, 16 food trucks, live entertainment happening in front of the [Fort Langley] community hall. We’re going to have kids’ entertainment: crafts and fun projects for them to do and then facepainting and all that kind of stuff.”
And there’s more happening all around the core of the festivities, Neufeld noted.
“The Cranberry Festival Regatta is taking place on the river all day. The pancake breakfast, behind Lee’s Market, starts at 8:30 a.m. and it goes until about noon. It’s put on by the Fort Langley Lions Club every year.”
The pancake breakfast includes cranberry sausages.
And there are the museums, she noted.
“The [B.C.] Farm Museum and the [Langley] Centennial Museum will be open, and we like to remind people that they’re there,” Neufeld said.
She also expects many people to take advantage of free admission to the Fort Langley National Historic Site, the reconstruction of the Hudson Bay Co. fort at the east end of the village.
“They do a cranberry stomp – you take off your shoes and stomp on the cranberries and do a bunch of activities, and have people in period costumes and that kind of thing.”
“We feel like we can fully participate with what’s going on in the village by have a free admission day,” said Nancy Hildebrand, promotion officer at the old fort. “Visitors can just pop in for a little while to see the fort while they are in town for the festival.”
There will be guided tours through the fort, and some special interpretive activities.
“It’s really neat,” said Hildebrand, “because cranberries do have a strong historic connection with the fort. It was a strong export – I would say it was up there with salmon among the diverse things that we traded from the local First Nations people to export. They had a high, high value. We will incorporate some of those things into our storytelling that day.”
Among the fun activities planned at the historic fort will be bannock baking, with cranberries, over the fire at 2 o’clock.
And there will be the cranberry stomp.
“The cranberry stomp has really no basis in fact,” admitted Hildebrand, “but it’s just fun to put some boots on and stomp cranberries in a tub.”
Cranberries were actually highly valued for their vitamin content, especially Vitamin C.
“People in the gold rush were vitamin C deficient and getting scurvy,” Hildebrand explained. Cranberries were particularly valued in the California gold rush, where most of the berries were sent, package in small wooden barrels that were made in the fort.
“The Cranberry Festival is a fun event,” she said, “and I love the historic connection.”
There will be free shuttles for people who don’t want to fight the traffic generated by the tens of thousands of people expected to converged on Fort Langley for the day. Shuttle points will be at Trinity Western University and Walnut Grove Secondary School, with shuttles running every 15 minutes, Neufeld promised, “So you’re never waiting too long in either direction.”