Sabrina Carlson, volunteer from the Northland Pines SOAR Charter High School, sold cranberries by the bag.
Sabrina Carlson, volunteer from the Northland Pines SOAR Charter High School, sold cranberries by the bag.
With no Cranberry Fest last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, tens of thousands of people converged on the Eagle River area last weekend for the 2021 event that saluted a tiny red berry.

Kim Emerson, executive director for the Eagle River Area Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center, said tens of thousands of people walked through the gates of the Vilas County Fairgrounds Saturday and Sunday, for the 41st annual Cranberry Fest.

“I believe it was a huge success,” said Emerson Monday. “It was a great Cranberry Fest, maybe one of the best; and the colors throughout the area were beautiful.”

Emerson said crowds were especially large Saturday, when the temperature was warm and actually humid for October.

“The weather was great. It was way better than having snow,” said Emerson. “I would say Sunday was a typical Sunday, which started a little slow because we had some rain showers about 9 a.m., but then, things picked up. The later Green Bay Packers game Sunday also helped because a lot of the locals like to come Sunday.”

Emerson said the chamber estimated 45,000 people attended the fest over the two days. It resulted in huge sales of cranberry-related products.

“We sold more than 8,500 pounds of fresh cranberries which were gone by 2:30 p.m. Saturday,” said Emerson. “I found an additional 200 pounds to sell Sunday, but they didn’t last long.”

Emerson said Cranberry Fest is a popular event with many people who return to the festival each fall to shop in the craft fair featuring nearly 300 artisans, sample cranberry baked goods and participate in cranberry marsh tours to Lake Nokomis Cranberries Inc. marshes Thursday through Sunday. 

“The bakery sold out at 1 p.m. Saturday and souvenir sales were excellent,” said Emerson. “The beer and wine also sold out on Saturday.”

Volunteers vital

Emerson said that the service organizations that operated the various food stands kept busy during the weekend, adding that the fest wouldn’t be possible without the more than 200 volunteers.

“The people who volunteered at the fest were spectacular,” she said. “We were down a little bit, but we were able to make adjustments. The chamber staff and board really appreciate the volunteers. It takes a lot.”

Emerson said several organizations raised money during Cranberry Fest including the Greater Eagle River Tennis Association in the food tent, the Eagle River Lions Club parking cars and school groups.

“I just really want to thank the volunteers who showed up,” said Emerson. “We couldn’t put on an event of this size without them.”

Other activities

There also were activities in downtown Eagle River Saturday including an an­tiques sale on Wall Street and farmers market on Main Street. The annual fiber arts and weaving exhibit and luncheon at First Congregational United Church of Christ and the Bog Jog 5K were not held this year.

But back at the fairgrounds, Emerson said some of the crafters said they had their best year of sales ever at this year’s Cranberry Fest.

“And some said it was their best sales day ever,” said Emerson. “Meanwhile, the beer and wine tent was very popular with four lines of 30 people deep waiting for refreshments.”

Emerson said the Eagle River Police Department provided assistance with traffic control throughout the weekend and did its best to keep vehicles moving through the city.

“There were some points where people had to wait a little bit, but personally, I didn’t receive any complaints. We’re a small town and that’s a lot of traffic to handle during a weekend, especially Saturday,” said Emerson.

Emerson said event organizers are already making plans for next year and are looking for new activities to improve Cranberry Fest, which is set for Oct. 1-2 in 2022.