They travelled from throughout the Lower Mainland, creating waves of bodies amid a sea of tents and food trucks that littered the historic village of Fort Langley during the Thanksgiving Day long weekend.
Organizers of the Cranberry Festival were elated that rain held off for much of the day on Saturday, giving visitors and vendors alike a chance to enjoy the 20th annual street festival that pays homage to the harvest.
Five-year-old Joanna Wang and her mother travelled from Richmond, excited to explore a new-to-them event offering family fun.
Likewise, Fort Langley’s Dawn Crawford brought her daughter and friend to the festival.
“We came for the cranberries. We came for the the community spirit. And we came to support our local merchants, the artisans, and other vendors,” Crawford said.
Two-year-old Isaiah Baggio and his father, Ryan, brought some visiting friends down to the festival. It’s fair to say attendance at this event is becoming a family tradition for the Otter area family, who sought to buy fresh cranberries for their Thanksgiving Day dinner, to sample some of the different foods available, and just hang out with friends.
Daryl Stone came over from Maple Ridge for the first time, and he said he was impressed by all the food vendors and the variety of exhibitors participating.
Stone heard attendance was even larger last year, because of more ideal weather, and applauded how great this was for a community event. He planned to return home with a bag full of scones, and attempt to convince his wife to put the Cranberry Festival on their must-do-list for next year.
Melisa Olson and her husband Tim moved to Langley a little more than a year ago, and never attend the Cranberry Festival before. In fact, Melisa just learned about the event recently on Facebook and decided to check it out, expecting to pick up a few fresh cranberries and little else. Nearing the end of their rounds at the event, they were lugging around a few shopping bags full of unexpected treasures.
While Tim and his friend Andrew Savage of Kelowna were impressed with all the food and raved in particular of the poutine, Melisa loved all crafters and specialty shops represented at the fair. She was excited to return again next year – this time with her baby girl in tow, since the couple is expecting their first child in January.
“It’s awesome. Lots of vendors. Lots of food trucks. Lots of fun,” Melisa said.
Trish Gellatly came in from Vancouver’s West End. She was specifically there to visit the Tiny Kittens tent.
Two months ago, a friend encouraged her to check out the Langley-based but internationally recognized Tiny Kittens website. She was hooked immediately. So, Gellatly came out to the festival Saturday to buy multiple wine glasses, Christmas ornaments, and shopping bags all sporting the Tiny Kittens logo, wanting to use them for an office fundraiser in aid of the cat adoption group.
Ron and Carrie Stare of Brookswood have attended at least half a dozen Cranberry Festivals through the year, including the last four in a row.
“It’s a tradition,” Ron said.
They always buy sunflowers, and Carrie is particularly keen to connect with a jewelry vendor who she can only find at the festival.
Meanwhile, Ron admitted he enjoys sampling all the different food, the pepperoni and cheese proving most popular with his palette this time around.
But for Ron, he sees the festival as a chance to reconnect with people he’s gotten to know through is 37 years living in Langley, but otherwise see much anymore.
“There’s such a variety of people who come out to the festival,” Stare said. “It’s a great chance to catch up.”
Burnaby’s Nathan Melvin and his entourage from Monty Mega Fries had never heard about Fort Langley’s Cranberry Festival until they were in the village a few weeks ago for a food truck event.
“We heard it was huge, and we had to be here” to sell their fries and hotdogs, Melvin said.
They were definitely not disappointed, only able to squeeze out a few seconds between orders, to talk to the Langley Advance.
People attend the festival for a variety of reason, said one of the event organizer, Eric Woodward. But whatever the reason, the Fort Langley developer said, he never hears many complaints.
In fact, he was proud to boast that the festival – now in its 20th year – continues to grow.
Organizers ended up expanding the street festival along stretch of Glover Road (the village’s main drag) from Francis to Mavis Streets to accommodate more than 120 vendors, and down a side street to facilitate 15 food trucks.
“Every year, we just get a little bit better,” said Woodward, who can usually be found at the cranberry booth set up in front of the Fort Langley Community Hall.
The favourite part of the festival for him is selling the berries, and raising money to cover a big chunk of the cost for the festival. “You get to meet everyone coming by to get their berries,” said Woodward. “Everyone has a great day, and that’s what it’s all about.”
Ocean Spray donates 10,000 pounds worth of cranberries, which are sold for $1 a pound, and usually sell out by early in the afternoon.
“Thanks to Ocean Spray. Without their sponsorship, we’d struggle to put on the festival,” Woodward added. With that corporate donation, and the kindness of several other key sponsorships, he said the Fort Langley Business Improvement Area – and all the participating players – are able to attract thousands to this special tribute to the harvest in grand style year after year.