Volunteers Turn Out To Support Cranberry Festival’s Return

By: William F. Galvin

The Harwich Cranberry Arts and Music Festival drew a large crowd this year. WILLIAM F. GALVIN PHOT

HARWICH - The  Harwich Cranberry Arts and Music Festival may yet be saved.

A lack of volunteers in the festival over the past several years caused the festival committee a couple of weeks ago to declare that September’s Harwich Cranberry Arts and Music Festival may have been the last. But after a call for volunteers, 28 people showed up last Tuesday at the chamber of commerce office expressing an interest in volunteering. 

This year’s festival was put on primarily by 11 volunteers, HCF President Ed McManus said, with a few extra hands on the days of the events. During the Sunday breakdown of the festival, there were seven volunteers working into the night. The average age of those volunteers was 73 years old, he said.

“There is a need for young blood, if the festival is going to continue,” McManus said.

 He acknowledged that the announcement the 45-year-old festival may be finished was a bit of “shock and awe” to draw the attention of the community to the need for assistance. The festival was canceled last year because of the pandemic.

McManus said there was a good mix of people at the meeting. There were some people who are new to the town, old volunteer participants, and crafts people who came forward, he said, people in their 40s and older.

Bob Weiser, director of the CranJam Music Festival, a major draw within the event, said that he has also had a lot of calls from people who are willing to assist.

The next meeting will be important, McManus said, to see how many people come back. At that meeting the group will begin working on descriptions for the formation of subcommittees.

“The festival committee will go forward as long as the people return and get involved,” McManus said. 

McManus said the committee almost went under in 2008. The fireworks, sponsored by the chamber of commerce, are an important ingredient to the festival, and the state Department of Environmental Protection required that the display be relocated due to concerns for a buildup of the chemical perchlorate from the discharge of fireworks in zones of contribution to public wells. In 2008 the fireworks moved to Red River Beach.

“We thought people came to the festival for the crafts, food court, music and the carnival,” McManus said. “What we found out is they were there for the fireworks.”

With the relocation of the fireworks to Red River Beach there weren’t enough people at the fairgrounds. The carnival pulled out and a significant festival revenue source was lost, from $15,000 to $18,000. Without that revenue it was like a house of cards, McManus said; with one pulled out everything started falling apart.

The fireworks later returned to Monomoy Regional High School and are sponsored by the chamber of commerce in conjunction with the festival.

“It’s a partnership for sure,” chamber executive director Cyndi Williams said. “We’ll continue to do the parade and the fireworks. If there was an issue of the festival going away, the chamber would have stepped in to help.”

Williams said last week’s meeting was standing room only and everyone listened to what goes into putting on the festival. With the additional volunteers the hope is the Beach Day event can also return. It was canceled this year due to a lack of volunteers. 

A location for the Oct. 27 meeting has yet to be determined, but McManus said those who have signed up to volunteer will be notified by email.

“Nobody wants it to end,” McManus said. “We may make it to 50 years yet.”