Church of the Holy Eucharist’s 24th annual Pine Barrens Festival commenced Monday, July 23 with Medford night.
The festival takes place on the church’s property in Tabernacle and dedicates each night of the festival to different Pineland towns in the area with honoring a Volunteer of the Year from the unique towns.
“Each town nominates two people, and the festival committee makes the selection of who is Volunteer of the Year,” said Mary Fishl, chairperson of the Culture and History and Nature Resources tent at the festival, in addition to organizing Volunteers of the Year.
“Our [tent] is all about different things and what they all have in common is the history and culture of the Pine Barrens,” Fishl explained. “In terms of culture, it’s what we represent, sometimes we have live music — down home [country] music and demonstrations keeping natural history active.”
Moreover, the festival honors a resident of the Pine Barrens with the Pine Barrens Festival Award. Russel Juelg was honored as the 2012 Pine Barrens Festival Award recipient.
“The award is given to someone who has made an outstanding contribution to the culture, history and natural resource of the Pine Barrens,” Fishl said.
The opening night honored the Harriet Family of Medford which has been dedicated to Medford through education, the arts, business and other work within the community.
The family maintains a scholarship fund at Lenape Regional High School, assists youth groups in the area with fundraising and is a sponsor of the Medford Halloween Parade as well as sponsorship in various athletic programs in Medford Youth Athletics Association.
The Harriet family supports the Medford Arts Commission, holds membership in the Medford Business Association and has members who have served as the Medford-Vincentown Rotary Club presidents.
The festival has seen improvement over the years between growing crowds and an increase in interest.
“I would say there has been gradual improvement over the past few years. Three years ago we got the new rides from Majestic Midway, and everyone loved the safety, cleanliness and the professionalism,” said Father Andrew Jamieson of Church of the Holy Eucharist. “We’re just glad to have them at the Pine Barrens Fest.”
More than 450 volunteers donate their time to the event both within and outside the parish.
“I’ve been here for 10 years,” said Jamieson. “And it’s amazing to see the generosity of the volunteers, they take vacation time to come work the festival and that’s just wonderful.”
Between 35,000 and 40,000 visitors were expected to come visit this year and enjoy the family friendly atmosphere, while supporting a good cause.
“The money goes directly to the parish and its upkeep of the year — it’s a major fundraiser for the church,” Jamieson said.
The parish maintains all the booths and the only part of the event run by an outside source is the rides.
Marriage Encounter is one of the booth sponsors running Josephine’s Café, offering sweet baked goods and coffee.
“The booth used to be run by Josephine, who passed away five years ago. She used to do a wheel,” said Rose Kukura of Shamong, who works with Marriage Encounter and is a longtime visitor of the festival.
The baked treats were all donated and made by parishioners.
“It’s important to the community, you get to talk to everyone and say hello,” said Kukura.
“Come enjoy a cup of coffee and a piece of cake and listen to the music,” said Kukura. “It’s like a social network.”
The festival wrapped the with Tabernacle night July 28.
“We just wanted everyone to turn out and enjoy a great time with their families and children, enjoy great food and great entertainment. It’s a great time,” said Father Jamieson.