Pine Barrens Festival celebrates 24 years

Church of the Holy Eucharist’s 24th annual Pine Barrens Festival commenced Monday, July 23 without a hitch despite some rainy weather.

Between 35,000 and 40,000 visitors were expected to 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,” said Father Andrew Jamieson of Church of the Holy Eucharist.

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 Jamieson. “We’re just glad to have them at the Pine Barrens Fest.”

Over 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.”

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 takes place on the church’s property 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.

This year, Tabernacle was the final night of the festival, July 28 and honored Bob Lees for his 75 years of dedication to Tabernacle. Starting at age 16 Lees joined his first community service organization and had many more firsts to follow.

Lees was one of the first members of the Medford Farms Fire Company, serving as one of its first officers. He was also the founding member of the Tabernacle Historical Society. In addition Lees was an active member in the ’60s and ’70s on Tabernacle Township Planning and Zoning Boards. Lees has also been a member and officer of Masonic Lodge 44 in Vincetown amongst a long list of accomplishments.

“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.