Annual festival offers family fun

Pine Barrens Fest

Every year, this naturally quiet area plays host to six fun-filled nights of food, live entertainment, games, rides and culture devoted to the Pine Barrens.

The Pine Barrens Festival will celebrate its 27th year running throughout the week of Monday, July 20 to Saturday, July 25.

The festival takes place on the Church of the Holy Eucharist’s property.

“We have this event each year to celebrate here at Holy Eucharist and let people know that we are here,” Father Andrew Jamieson said. “The event really brings families together.”

There are a number of games and rides for kids to enjoy and a slew of food tents that will be serving tasty home-cooked treats to the guests.

The family entertainment also includes a wide array of music and a beer garden.

The Pine Barrens culture booth will be back from last year with a few enhancements made to it, and the welcome center booth will be back for the parish to explain everything that’s going on at the Church of the Holy Eucharist.

This event is typically the largest on the calendar for this area and it grows each year.

“We are now up to about 43,000 people,” Jamieson said.

All of the earnings from this event go right into the church.

“This is our biggest event, so these funds help us take care of ourselves financially during the year,” Jamieson said.

The festival is run strictly by hundreds of volunteers who dedicate their time to helping however they can. The church has volunteers of its own but also reaches out to the community and members from other churches to see if they would like to participate.

“It’s really a community driven event,” Jamieson said. “My favorite part is going around and seeing the volunteers each night and thanking them for making a sacrifice during their summer vacations. I try to stop in to each and every venue and say hello.”

However, the festival is not all carnival games and carousels. It supports a good cause and also honors a “volunteer of the year” each night from the different Pinelands towns — Medford, Chatsworth/Woodland, Medford Lakes, Vincentown/Southampton, Shamong/Indian Mills and Tabernacle. The award is given to someone who has made an outstanding contribution to the culture and history of the Pine Barrens.

“It’s been a tradition long before I became the pastor,” Jamieson said. “We contact each township and ask them to nominate a great volunteer or a particularly special individual.”

Festival committee directors Gary Williams and Helen Mazarella have been meeting for the preplanning of this event for nearly five months now.

“They’ve been great,” Jamieson said.

For only being a week long, the event takes extensive time to prepare and set up. It took about two and half months to set up the tents and food, and that doesn’t even include the rides.

All of the rides are supplied by Majestic Midways, and they are also helpful in contributing a number of the guests who come out each year.

Similar to previous years, there are discounted ride bracelets that are being sold in advance after masses. The normal mass hours are Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at 9 a.m., as well as Sunday at 8:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m. and 6 p.m. Bracelets are also being sold at Russo’s Farm Market.

“It is a great gathering for friends who haven’t seen each other for years. It’s just a great time to gather,” Jamieson said.