Sometimes it takes a threat of dire consequences to snap people out of complacency and provide the motivation for action. That, in our view, seems to have been behind Harwich Cranberry Arts and Music Festival Chairman Ed McManus' recent comment that the popular festival would have to end its long run without a new infusion of volunteers. To be clear, it was not an empty threat; this fall's Beach Day event had to be canceled due to a lack of volunteers, and just a handful of stalwarts kept the two-day craft fair and music festival from going the same route.
Last week, 28 people attended a session called to recruit new volunteers for the festival. If even half of them follow through and commit to helping out, the event should be able to continue. The experience, however, should be a wake up call for the festival organizers to perhaps retool the event, consolidating “Fall for Harwich” into one weekend instead of spreading it out over two or more weeks. Beach Day could easily be consolidated into a very active late morning and early afternoon, rather than an all-day event, on Saturday morning. The craft fair could kick off that same day, with the music fest beginning late in the day and continuing into the evening. The Hometown Parade could return to its spot on Sunday morning, helping lead crowds to the final day of the craft and music festival, with fireworks that evening.
Doing so would lessen the commitment needed from volunteers and provide a very busy schedule that would help to attract folks to Harwich for the weekend. It's understandable that merchants and the town's chamber might prefer to stretch the events out over a longer period, but the efficacy of this, as demonstrated by this year's stretched-too-thin volunteers, is not realistic. Better to come up with alternative promotions that can be done separate from the Harwich Cranberry Arts and Music Festival – returning to the town's roots with tours of working cranberry bogs, for instance – and highlighting other aspects of the town's culture and history to broaden the appeal to visitors and locals alike.