Many are curious about the Pinelands section of New Jersey, perhaps because of stories they’ve heard about the Jersey Devil, perhaps because of the region’s sandy terrain, or because of “The Sopranos” third season episode in which Christopher and Paulie try to dump a Russian gangster there and end up lost in the woods overnight.
The area is full of ghost towns and ramshackle factories from industries that are no longer thriving, as well as prime examples of a Garden State industry that is still thriving — cranberry farming. New Jersey is the third-largest producer of cranberries in the country, and a drive up a county road like Route 563 affords one-of-a-kind views of tiny red masses bobbing on flat bogs.
Residents of North and Central Jersey who’ve always wanted to learn more about the region can get an easy introduction — and a focal point for a day trip — by heading to the annual Chatsworth Cranberry Festival on October 19 and 20, an event that started in 1983.
The small community of Chatsworth in Woodland Township, Burlington County, has fewer than 1,000 residents and is considered the “unofficial capital of the Pine Barrens,” a designation made perhaps more official in a National Geographic write-up in 2011.
The website Festivals.com notes, “The Annual Chatsworth Cranberry Festival is the second largest festival in the country. It is considered to be one of the best festivals in the Mid Atlantic Region. There are hundreds of vendors… It is a colorful and fun-filled celebration of the fall cranberry harvest. There will be live entertainment, an antique car show, and delicious festival foods. The Cranberry Festival draws over 85,000 fair-goers.”
The event features a car show at which awards are given in categories such as “most cranberry colored car” and “best pickup.”
The festival will run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day. An organizer advised visitors to get there early for the best parking.
So far this year, the festival’s various social media accounts have had limited activity except to clarify the dates and contact information. But an organizer said by phone in September that more than 150 vendors are expected this year. Prospective vendors can fill out forms to register here.
To find your way to the center of activities, use the GPS address 3980 Main Street, Chatsworth, New Jersey, 08019. For updates and more information, check the website here, keep checking Facebook, or call 609-726-0006.
For those desiring a cranberry festival farther north — and closer to the Turnpike — the historic town of Bordentown is hosting the 30th anniversary of theirs on October 5 and 6. They expect more than 150 vendors as well. Information on the Bordentown festival can be found here.