The South Beach is gearing up for what is estimated to be the 29th annual Cranberry Harvest Festival in Grayland. The celebration of this unique, tart berry is set for October 8- 9. A crew of volunteers, along with the festival’s program director, Tanya Wood, have been working diligently to revive the three or more decades-old festival tradition, which was put on hold by Covid 19 during the last two years. Approximately a thousand visitors are expected to attend, participating in events including a cranberry cook-off, a run and even a parade. “We have people coming from as far as New York,” says Wood.

During the second weekend in October, festivalgoers will admire the beauty of the glowing red cranberry bogs during harvest, enjoy the traditional activities at the historic Grayland Community Hall and learn all about the humble cranberry with its unique tart flavor that complements our Thanksgiving turkeys so well.

Is it the 29th annual celebration?

Leslie Eichner, a Cranberry Festival veteran, explains why folks are uncertain if this is the 29th year the festival has been celebrated. Accurate information about the beginnings of the festival has been lost in the mists of time.

“We calculated the year of the first festival from historic Bob McCausland ads, which would make 2022 the 29th festival,” Eichner says. “However, I was recently corrected by a septuagenarian who told me the festival had already been going when he was in high school.

“The event used to be run by the Cranberry Coast Chamber of Commerce, a Grayland organization without a storefront run by a local couple for the purpose of organizing the Cranberry Festival. In 2012 they stopped running the chamber. Sadly, we never gained access to their files,” explains Eichner.

Regardless of exactly how many years the Grayland festival has celebrated the cranberry, this tart and versatile fruit is certainly enjoyed by many. Yet, when it comes to Thanksgiving dinner, few diners wonder about the origin of their cranberry sauce.

Watch the Harvest in Action

“People think cranberries come from the grocery store,” laments Mike Reickenberger whose farm will be the destination of this year’s bog tour, one of the major events of the festival. The guided tours seek to remedy this lack of education under the motto “Watch the Harvest in Action.”

Reickenberger generously donates precious hours during the busy harvest time to tell visitors all there is to know about the cranberry and the cranberry industry. He speaks about the know-how, the hard work and the community effort it takes to bring the fruit to grocery store shelves.

Cranberries are one of only three fruits native to America. The others are Concord grapes and blueberries.  In addition to the coastal Pacific Northwest, major growing areas for cranberries are in Wisconsin, New Jersey and Massachusetts. These areas have the right growing conditions.

“Cranberries need a low-pH, high-acid peat-like soil, along with a cool rest period in winter,” explains Reickenberger.

“Most people think that the berries are harvested in water. The wet harvest is indeed the easiest and most efficient, but it is mostly used on the much larger bogs on the East Coast. It requires a pond and dikes to flood the fields. The dry harvest is predominant in Grayland,” he says.

The Furford Picker invented in Grayland

The berries are gathered using local Furford Pickers. Some of these venerable machines are 60 years old and still going strong. The Furford Picker is an ingenious harvest machine invented by Julius Furford whose workshop is situated across from the bogs at 2395 State Route 105 in Grayland.

The original Western Pickers combed the berries off the vines and sacked them. Then later the farmer needed to prune the vines to keep them in top condition for the following harvest. In the 1950s, Furford invented a machine that not only picked the berries but also pruned the vines at the same time, saving an enormous amount of labor. The Furford Picker Company is still operating today. In fact, two pickers were recently sold to Sweden.

In 1986, Julius Furford established the Cranberry Museum, showcasing his collection of cranberry harvest artifacts in one of his buildings. He died in 1999 at the age of 91.

The Cranberry Museum

In 2012, Gwen and Chuck Tjernberg took over the operation of the museum and the Furford Picker Manufacturing Company. Last April, Holly Marshall moved to Grayland from San Diego, purchased the company and the museum and immersed herself in cranberry culture and history.

The adventurous new owner is full of enthusiasm: “I set up my bed in the area in the back of the museum and filmed myself with my phone to convince myself that I truly own a museum.”

The Cranberry Museum is an important source of local history, wonderfully complementing the educational aspects of the Cranberry Festival. The exhibits include hand tools and machinery used during all stages of the cranberry harvest from the most primitive to the more sophisticated Furford Picker. Botanical information, accounts of cranberry harvests and the use of the machinery are displayed.

Marshall is a knowledgeable and engaging guide, eager to promote the cranberry industry and the culture surrounding it. She is even learning how to build a Furford Picker! She is relieved to have volunteer help this year. “Last year I ran the museum by myself. It wasn’t easy,” she says. “I had three busloads of people coming in during the harvest!”

Marshall opened the Cranzberry Gift Shop inside the museum, which offers cranberry-themed gifts and a large selection of cranberry food items. The many cookbooks and recipes on display show how the cranberry has progressed in the culinary world.

Cranberries in the culinary world

Local cooks are invited to submit their favorite dishes to the Cranberry Harvest Festival CookOff  from noon to 5 p.m. Friday, Oct. 7 at the Grayland Community Hall.

The recipes will be collected in a community cookbook. Historically, the delicious creations submitted in the novice section use cranberries in a variety of dishes, including jams, jellies, chutneys, sweet breads, cookies, pies and more. Local chefs, bakers, brewers and winemakers participate on the professional level.

The Westport/Grayland culinary community has taken up the challenge to offer unique cranberry dishes in food stores and restaurants. The berry seems to lend itself especially to winemaking – either solo or paired with grapes.

The Westport Winery offers two cranberry wines. Bog Berry Blush is a tingly, tart and spirited cranberry/ Gewürztraminer wine. Rapture of the Deep is a sparkling cranberry wine described as “pure, joyous, angelic.”

The Wynoochee Valley Winery boasts some of the best cranberry wine in Washington State. It is sweet and tart. The creators suggest poaching pears in it for the “best dessert around.”

Blackbeard’s Brewery pub in Westport brews a cranberry mead which is so good that it tends to sell out quickly. They also offer their Pirate Cove Cranberry Wine.

Photo By Christine Vincent

Ocean Spray is unique co-op

The traditional jellied cranberry sauce was the invention of Marcus Uran, one of the three founders of Ocean Spray, the Cadillac of the cranberry industry, according to Reickenberger. Ocean Spray is a farmer-owned agricultural co-op, the only co-op on the Fortune 500 list. Its Grays Harbor cranberry processing plant is just off State Route 107 in Markham. Ocean Spray realized that in order to increase demand for the berry, one needed to develop new products. Immensely popular grocery store items like Craisins and Cranberry Juice Cocktail owe their existence to Ocean Spray’s excellent product development. Almost all Grayland cranberry farmers are Ocean Spray members. The co-op helps them stay competitive. In addition to Grayland, in Grays Harbor County, cranberry bogs are also located north of Hoquiam along the bay.

Grayland bog owner Bob Hitt explains the realities of cranberry farming: “A bog takes five years to produce a full crop. New hybrid berry varieties are being developed at research institutions, but also here in Grayland. The new Gregorki hybrid produces much higher yields and the new High Red hybrid produces better-quality fruit.

“Farmers must keep up with these developments. Drainage must be maintained, or wet years will ruin the crops. Ocean Spray implements regulations regarding independent sales. In return, they protect members with steady prices,” Hitt says.

Many of the Grayland bogs have been in families for generations. However, today the farmers find it hard to pass their bogs on to their children. It takes a person with a love for the land and hard work to raise a family in an isolated rural community. The ones who do stay truly appreciate the beauty of the hidden cranberry coast and its cranberry culture. The Harvest Festival brings recognition and fun to the hardworking farmers.

Locals participate in the Bite of the Beach Cook-Off or the Big Berry Weigh in, a competition for the largest cranberry. Some farmers grow the Pilgrim cranberry variety, which produces enormous berries the size of a large shooter marble, especially for the purpose of entering the Big Berry Weigh-In at the Festival.

How to attend the festival

If you visit Grayland on October 8-9, turn east on State Route 105. Then turn onto Cranberry Road to watch the beauty of the harvesters working on six miles of flaming-red bogs.

Visit the Cranberry Market Place with vendors and live entertainment at the Grayland Community Hall, 2071 Cranberry Road.

On Saturday, purchase a bog tour ticket and take the bus to the Reickenberger Farm. The bus will have a tour guide.

In the evening, watch the Firefly Parade sponsored by the Grayland Fire Department.

On Sunday, participate in or watch “Jog the Bog and Beach.” Beginning at 9 a.m., 10K and 5K runs and a 3K walk are scheduled.  (To register for “Jog the Bog,” go to and look under pdfs, 2021-Bog-Jog Registration.)

Purchase organic cranberries and cranberry jam at Plenty Farm, 2247 Smith Anderson Road, Grayland. Check out their Facebook page at PlentyFarm.

Visit the Furford Cranberry Museum and Cranzberry Gift Shop, 2395 State Route 105, Grayland; 760-492-4274. More information about the Furford Picker is available at

To register for the Cranberry Festival Bite of the Beach Cook-Off, go to the website and look under pdfs, Cranberry.

The up-to-date festival schedule of events can be found online at