Sunshine in Bala for 32nd annual Cranberry Festival

Crowds have flocked to Bala this weekend for the ever popular annual Cranberry festival.

From cranberry crepes to boutique clothing and tours of the storied cranberry marshes, people from all over the province have had a fun filled time so far at this year’s festival, despite Sunday’s rain.

Check out our pics gallery (below) which have been updated throughout the weekend. (photos via Muskoka News Watch)

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Cranberry harvest season has begun in Bala

Johnston’s Cranberry Marsh is buzzing as this year’s cranberry harvest begins.

The cranberry season is the busiest and most exciting time of year for Johnston’s – and this year is no exception. Despite a summer drought, this year’s harvest may be the biggest crop ever with an anticipated 500,000 pounds of cranberries.

Farmer Murray Johnston has been closely watching this year’s crop.

“Rain is important for fruit growth. Our cranberries need an inch of water per week. While it’s been a dry summer, we can rely on our irrigation system to mimic rainfall,” says Murray Johnston.

Johnston’s Cranberry Marsh consistently produces the best quality cranberries in Ontario by using a harvesting method only used by 5% of growers in Canada. The picking method most commonly used by other growers takes a machine to ‘beat’ the vines, knocking off the cranberries. Most growers harvest this way because it’s fast and easy – and makes for fun commercials.

The Johnston family believes that gentle handling makes for better berries. They carefully comb their berries off the vines, resulting in less bruising and better quality fruit.

“Many people don’t fully realize the care and skill our team put into the cranberries we grow,” says Murray Johnston. “We plan to share as much of the process as possible with consumers so they feel an even stronger connection when they visit the farm.”

Johnston’s Cranberry Marsh, home of Muskoka Lakes Winery, offers their Bog to Bottle Discovery designated a Canadian Signature Experience. This guided farm tour and tutored wine tasting is offered every day at 11, 1 and 3. The tour has been revised this year to share even more interesting information about harvesting, cranberries, the onsite winery, and the Johnston family history. Harvest season at the Farm offers plenty of ways to celebrate Muskoka’s native fruit.

Activities offered everyday:

 Daily tours @ 11, 1 & 3

 See the harvesting and packinghouse operations

 Enjoy a wine tasting  Shop in The Cranberry Emporium

 Relax on the wine and cheese patio

 Sample cranberry goodies at the Cranberry Cafe (Open daily Oct. 1 – 16)

 Hike the trails

 Hunt for geocaches

 Critter catching for the kids

Activities offered weekends only:

 Wagon Tours offered all day (weekends between Sept. 24- Oct. 16)

 Helicopter Rides (weekends between Oct. 8-Oct. 16)

 Walk in the Berries (weekends between Oct. 8-Oct. 16)

The beginning of harvest season, is a unique time to visit Johnston’s Cranberry Marsh as they harvest a large percentage of white cranberries. The white cranberries are used to make Muskoka Lakes Winery’s White Cranberry Wine – a wine unlike any other in Canada. With 27 acres of cranberries to pick, harvesting should last until the end of October.

For more information, contact: Matt French at 705-762-3203 or by email, at: matt@cranberry.ca

Celebrating 30 Years of Cranberry Festival Fun in Bala

The Bala Cranberry Festival has the hip waders ready for marsh pictures! 30th Annual Festival kicks of Friday, October 17

Submitted Release October 13, 2014: The 30th Annual Bala Cranberry Festival is inviting families and friends everywhere to come and experience three, fun-filled days on October 17, 18 and 19. Cranberry Festival is  Always The Weekend After Thanksgiving.

The festival kicks off on the Friday and Saturday at 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and falls into Sunday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Enjoy Muskoka’s fall colours during it’s cranberry season.

“All kinds of great new vendors and attractions for the 30th Edition of the Festival. THIS is the year to attend, you’ll be berry glad you did” says Melissa Whittle, Event Coordinator.

A highlight of the festival is always the cranberry vendors who gather to showcase their local products and recipes. This year a new activity added, that has been ‘ripping’ across the waters, is the Ontario Watercross Racing where snowmobiles race around the lake. The festival also includes the famous cranberry marsh tours, hands-on exotics, pig races, trackless train trolley, photo booth, face painting, balloon twisting, an interactive animal zone, and much more. In fact, the Dunk Tank on Bala Falls Road has invited all the local electoral candidates to participate as well as a few other local celebrities.

On Saturday night, guest 19 and older can enjoy a live show from The Stampeders at The Kee To Bala. With the purchase of the festival’s souvenir button the concert tickets can be bought for $20.00 per guest.

A button souvenir fee of $8.00 per person is required for participation in festival activities and attractions. The button can be purchased the day of at various button booths or prior to the date at locations listed on the event website. Children 12 years old and under are FREE.

Visit www.balacranberryfestival.on.ca for a full list of events and more information about the 30th Bala Cranberry Festival. Discover the ‘Friends of the Festival’ accommodations and the many Cranberry Festival packages available.

Visitors are welcome to email cbfest@muskoka.on.ca or call the Bala Cranberry Festival at 705-762-1564 with any questions.

“The Bala Cranberry Festival gives the community of Bala, and surrounding areas, the opportunity to extend the tourist season and improves the quality of life in our community by providing financial assistance to organizations and individuals in need.”

Municipal election: Muskoka Lakes heats up with full race in Ward A

Currie, French and Kruckel each seeking to win one of only two Muskoka Lakes Ward A positions

Published August 21, 4;15pm: Now it’s a race. Yesterday two more political hopefuls filed their intentions to become Township Councillor in Muskoka Lakes Ward A.

Only two candidates will be successful as there are only two Township Councillor spots and now we have three contenders. Sandy Currie, president of the Moon River Property Owner’s Association, filed his nomination papers yesterday morning. This will be Currie’s second attempt to be elected in Ward A.

Featured photo: Matt French, Candidate for Muskoka Lakes Ward A Township Council

Later the same day, Matt French, vice president of the Muskoka Lakes Chamber of Commerce and Chair of the Bala Cranberry Festival, also filed his papers. His filing means there are now three people competing for the two positions (French, Currie and Donelda Kruckel, who was appointed to the Township Councillor position following the resignation of Bob McTavish). Kruckel also stood for election in 2010 but was unsuccessful. And while there has been no official confirmation of his plans, incumbent Ward A Councillor Brad Burgess has told people in Bala and Township staff that he will not seek re-election.

Contacted by email yesterday, French said he’s looking forward to doing even more public service in the community.

“2014 marks my second term both as Vice President of the Muskoka Lakes Chamber of Commerce, and Chair of the Bala Cranberry Festival. I’m always at work in the three areas of Business, Community, or the Environment in Muskoka Lakes,” said French. “What’s more, I’m always listening and learning from feedback, so at this point, I’m simply looking forward to receiving input from the community, and the opportunity to working with even more people [in the Township].”

French also provided this brief biography:

“I started out as my family’s third generation of seasonal residents in Bala, and am the first generation of full time residents. I have worked year round at Johnston’s Cranberry Marsh & Muskoka Lakes Winery since 2007, as Winemaker and Sales Manager. In that time, I’ve developed several award winning wines from local fruit, begun exporting our wine internationally, and helped develop Johnston’s as an iconic Muskoka attraction.”

French earned his degree at Queen’s University in Biology, Evolution and Ecology.

There are also two people seeking the single Township and District Councillor position in Ward A: Ruth-Ellen Nishikawa and Greg Knight.

Note: An email requesting biographical information and a picture was sent to candidate Sandy Currie shortly after he filed his papers yesterday, but so far there has been no response. MNW looks forward to updating this post with information from Currie to provide him equal space to that of French, and readers can look forward to full information from all candidates who provide it once they are certified in September.

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