Pine Barrens Festival

Pine Barrens Festival

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

The event is volunteer-powered by those of the parish and outside community.

More than 450 volunteers donate their time to the event both within and outside the parish.

“I’ve been here for 10 years,” said Father Andrew Jamieson of Church of the Holy Eucharist. “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.”

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,” said Father Jamieson.

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.”

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 will be 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, Shamong was held the night before the final of the festival, July 27 and honored John Volpa for his dedication to the community and his work as a science teacher at Indian Mills Memorial School. Volpa retired in June.

Volpa has worked with an impressive 3,000 children in a mentoring program teaching kids about environmental conservation and resource management.

His standout achievements include the organization of the sixth grade overnight “Camp Ocky” and development of an environmentally active and aware student council, and most recently received a grant to organize volunteers to improve and maintain the walking and biking trails in Shamong Township.

“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.