Some travelers might not realize it, but cranberries have been harvested on Nantucket since 1857— and these little berries are a still a big part of the island culture today.
Locals gather every year to celebrate the last two remaining commercial bogs on the island with delicious sampling, live music and more. Best of all, it all happens over Columbus Day weekend on Milestone Cranberry Farm.
Enjoy the fresh autumn air, stunning island views and be apart of the island’s annual festivities. Here’s five reasons to add Nantucket's Cranberry Festival to your vacation itinerary.
Only two cranberry bogs remain on the island, both of which are owned and operated by The Nantucket Conservation Foundation.
Until just prior to World War II, cranberry farming was an important part of the island’s economy. Nowadays, Nantucket’s 50 acre Milestone Bog and 37 acre Windswept Bog are the final reminders of the island’s berry-harvesting past.
The festival will be full of locals who know all about its history, and professional farmers who are eager to share their stories.
Sure, history is fascinating, but there’s nothing like touring the bogs themselves and learning about the island’s modern-day farming practices.
Follow visitor signs around the festival grounds and take a self-guided tour with your party. It’s only about a quarter of a mile in length, but you’ll have a chance to explore the bogs and admire Nantucket’s rich agriculture. Plus, there’s information along the way and fun facts, like how the farms produce about 2 million pounds of cranberries per year, and more.
You’ll learn that the Windswept Bog in nearby Polpis is actually one of the few certified organic cranberry bogs in the country, and Nantucket’s second Milestone Bog is currently transitioning to organic status. To celebrate this success, only organic berries and products are featured at this year’s festival.
There are also guided tours done throughout the day by two cranberry experts, who are free to answer all your questions and point out interesting facts about cranberry farming.
From cranberry harvesting to animal encounters, the festival offers many ways to entertain the whole family.
Attending a cranberry festival, you might assume you could harvest your own berries— and you’d be right. There are several bogs near the festival grounds where you can collect your own “red rubies,” to eat that day or bring back home from your trip. Some travelers purchase a pound or two for the holidays, making homemade cranberry sauce, jam, pie and other delicious treats.
You’ll also want to check out the antique berry bouncing machine, which is an old-fashion conveyer belt that spits out berries into a wooden trough. Sit back and watch as they crank the little fruit and see how the berries were sorted many years ago.
Hop on their wagon and get pulled through the fields by a friendly orange tractor. On a sunny day, watch the water glisten over the bogs and enjoy the refreshing fall breeze. The whole family will likely see some of Milestone Cranberry Bog Farm’s fluffy sheep, who like to graze nearby.
Your family’s history buff will enjoy browsing through the local collection of antique tractors, seeing some of the long-standing machines that helped support Nantucket’s cranberry bogs for over one hundred years.
From sack races to tug-of-wars, children will be able to play all day long. Get up-close with friendly farm animals like goats, ducks and more at the petting zoo or the farm’s adored Border Collie herding their sheep. Kids can get their face painted, watch a “Nanpuppet” show or marvel at a sheep-shearing demonstration.
What’s a party without some music? Every year, the festival welcomes musicians to entertain festivals goers. This year, Four Easy Payments Band will play some bluegrass favorites for folk and acoustic lovers alike.
B-ack Yard BBQ, located on Straight Wharf, will be there serving up their famous pulled pork sandwiches, BBQ chicken, brisket, and more. Wicked Island Bakery is going all-out, bringing freshly made cranberry pecan bread and other berries baked goods. ACK Fresh will have pressed, raw, organic juices made from local berries, too.
And that’s not all. There are several other island favorites available, like New England clam chowder and seafood, so you can spend the entire afternoon here with the family and not have to worry about rushing off to dinner.
This event is open to the public, meaning no tickets. For travelers who brought a car along, it’s $20 for parking, but the fees and additional festival purchases go toward supporting the local community.
Nantucket’s 2018 Cranberry Festival is happening on Saturday October 6, so if the celebration sounds like a must-stop, plan accordingly.
Have you considered where you ‘ll stay during your getaway? Browse our Property Look Book to experience the island like a true local, at your own home-away-from-home.