North Bay’s Bill Fryer emerged from the Cranberry Trails with a bag of fresh cranberries in hand, picked at Callander’s Cranberry Marsh.
Designated as a protected conservation area in 2002, it is a short hike to the 319-hectare marsh located along the northwest shore of Callander Bay, where people have been known to pick their own cranberries.
The wetland is an important fish spawning area. It is also a reptile and waterfowl habitat.
It was the first time Fryer had attended the annual Cranberry Day festival in Callander, and from every indication, he will be back.
“They were easy to pick, and they were plentiful and delicious,” he said of his haul, which he plans to add to muffins, squares and of course turn into cranberry sauce to have at Thanksgiving.
“This is my first time. I keep hearing about it after the fact. This time I heard before, so I came out. I’m outside and it’s a beautiful day,” said a grinning Fryer. “Everybody is very cheerful and happy, saying hello as they pass on the trails. It is great.”
See related: Callander, your Cranberry Day approaches
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the festival and included vendors, live music, and the opportunity to speak with people knowledgeable about the trail system and the marsh.
Tracy Dupuis and her granddaughter were also attending for the first time.
“I think it’s great. I love it! I’m enjoying all the people and looking forward to doing all the trails. And I’m enjoying the music and all the vendors. You couldn’t ask for a better day,” said Dupuis.
Breanna Duquette and her daughter Tia were also visiting for the first time.
“It’s lovely and the free shuttle here was great too. No parking headaches We just hopped on the shuttle and made our way over here. I’m enjoying it very much.”
“I really like all the vendors out here, it is really cool to see all these people,” said 12-year-old Tia Duquette who said there was enough to do to keep youth her age happy.
Cranberry Day also gave organizations the opportunity to showcase what they do in the community.
One such organization was One Kids Place.
“It is so festive, and it is so wonderful. We are so glad to be back to these in-person events,” said Katharine Strang.
“Our territory is wide and far. We go from far up the James Bay Coast all the way to Muskoka. So it is nice for us to get into our communities and let everyone know about the services and the programs that we offer. The response has been great. We want people to stop and ask us questions.”
A local church also hosted a fundraising BBQ, and it was an opportunity for the Callander Lions club to sell tickets after the COVID-19 pandemic threw a wrench into any fundraising opportunities they might otherwise have had over the past couple of years.
“All our money goes to charities, and it has been very hard to fundraise. We have barely survived,” said Lion Clare Restoule.
Attending the festival also allowed the service club to meet potential new members to help grow its membership.
“Coming out to an event like this today is very important for the Callander Lions. We’ve actually picked up a person that’s willing to volunteer, and somebody else who is willing to volunteer and possibly become a Lion,” said Lion Brenda Lalonde.
“So we want to get out in the public and let people know we’re here and that we’re also raising funds for the Callander community through the Food Bank, through service projects. We try to help wherever we can, but it has been extremely tough over the past couple of years.”
Jordy Carr has often given her time to the festival over the years and says Cranberry Days continues to grow.
“The first few years they had some vendors and a little bit of music, but now we have four different performers on the trail, we have some educational components at the end of the trails, berry picking, and some treats and snacks.”
Last year’s event attracted roughly 900 people and it is expected that history will repeat itself, with most taking advantage of the shuttle service.