To those unfamiliar with Oregon’s south coast, a festival celebrating cranberries might seem a bit peculiar. But Curry and Coos Counties alone produce about 7 percent of the nation’s cranberry crop, and Oregon is actually one of just five states that together account for nearly the entire commercial cranberry crop in the country. Cranberry bogs abound in the coastal lowlands in the immediate vicinity of the eclectic, picturesque community of Bandon, where the first cranberry farms were fledged in the 1890s. Today, some 1,600 acres around Bandon are under cultivation with cranberries, and so central to the local economy are the bright-red berries that in 1947 community leaders launched the first Cranberry Festival. Not coincidentally, the previous year, 1946, was paramount for commercial production of cranberries on the Bandon Cranberry Festival offers a full slate of south coast as the Ocean Spray great activities for all ages. cooperative expanded its operations northward from California.
Bandon Cranberry Festival – USA Festivals Photo Gallery
That first year, the Cranberry Festival was composed of the then-labeled “big three events”: the festival queen coronation and ball, the Cranberry Bowl high school football game, and the Cranberry Festival dance. The following year, the Cranberry Parade was added, and it has since become perhaps the single most popular aspect of this three-day autumn celebration. The Cranberry Bowl likewise continues its illustrious tradition as a key part of the festival, with Bandon High School pitted against one of its area rivals on Friday night, and the Cranberry Queen coronation likewise remains a key part of the event.
In more modern iterations, however, the Cranberry Festival has added many other events and activities, including the uproarious cranberry-eating contests on the main festival stage, and the much-anticipated Queen of the Kitchen cooking contests in which chefs of all ages whip up their best dishes—which must include cranberries—to compete in various categories, such as appetizers, main dishes, relishes, and of course deserts. Throughout the festival, Cranberry City at Old Town Marketplace is home to dozens of vendors selling many different wares, including art works and crafts, along with many foodstuffs and fresh produce.
Saturday midmorning brings the expansive Cranberry Festival Parade coursing through Old Town Bandon to the delight of countless onlookers, and the vendor market continues throughout the day, long with the cranberry-eating contests, live music, and much more. The Saturday evening Cranberry Court coronation at Sprague Community Theater features young ladies who are vying for the crown delivering speeches and showing off their individual talents—and the queen automatically qualifies as a contestant for Miss Oregon. Among the Sunday events is the all-you-can-eat breakfast at the VFW hall and the popular Cranberry Run (a one-mile run/walk and both 5K and 10K road races). Each year the festival carries a new theme, and activities and events vary to some extent (see the festival website for details).
Bandon is one of the most popular destinations on the south coast and for good reason—it’s a charming little town with gorgeous beaches, eclectic shops, a wide variety of nice restaurants, and numerous lodging options (make reservations well in advance for festival weekend accommodations). Parking can be challenging during festival weekend.
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