Every year, the weekend after Thanksgiving, the Bala Cranberry Festival, brings the eenie tiny Muskoka town of Bala, ON, to life!
This three day event is a fantastic outdoor fall event, attended by folks from both near and far. Attending this autumn festival in Ontario is a tradition of many.
It’s a good old-fashioned, laid-back casual event…. great wholesome fun for everyone…..one of the top fall Ontario festivals.
Over the past 2 decades, I’ve seen just about every possible kind of weather for the Bala Cranberry Festival weekend….. heavy freezing rain, snow storms, torrential rain storms, sunny mild days, strong winds, freezing cold!
It’s just that time of year when summer is clearly over, fall is setting in, and winter isn’t far away, so expect a mixed bag of tricks, when it comes to weather.
I suggest taking along a good assortment of clothing, to suit all types of weather….the weather for the festival can be warm and sunny, cold and rainy, freezing rain or even snow, so be prepared!
Next Festival: October 2018
The Crowds and Parking
It’s a crowded event for sure…. don’t expect the crowds to be any less intense if the weather is lousy…. most Bala Cranberry Festival goers are a hearty bunch… they’ll be out for the festival, rain or shine!
However, the crowds move easily… no one seems to be in a hurry. There’s lots of room for everyone, and I’ve never encountered pushing or shoving or rude behaviour.
Parking can be a challenge, though. Cars can park in designated areas in Bala and in several of the large parking lots. The secret is to arrive early as possible, for premium parking close to the center of the action. You may need to park a long, long way from the festival grounds…. but that’s all part of the festival… it’s a VERY popular event.
Grab a Festival Button upon your arrival, for entrance to all buildings and displays, as well as everything at the Cranberry Marsh.
Buttons are usually around $5/person, with special rates for kids. The buttons make a really nice little memento for your scrapbook of the Festival.
The Streets of Bala
At the Bala Cranberry Festival, the streets are lined with vendors displaying their goods for sale. There’s apples, fruit, veggies, honey, crafty items for the home and garden, art, carvings, hot apple and cranberry cider, many food booths, homemade fries and burgers, clothing items and countless other items.
Some of the booths and several restaurants serve specialty items, just for the Cranberry Festival, such as cranberry sausage, cranberry crepes, hot cranberry cider, sugar-coated cranberries and other such delicacies concocted with cranberries!
It’s not unusual to see Elvis every year, wandering about the festival grounds, or being chauffeured around to greet the crowds.
Bala Cranberry Festival Grounds
There are two buildings with arts, crafts and food items for sale, as well as many more booths outdoors as well. There’s a small midway with rides and games to attract the kiddies and the younger crowd. The stage is located centrally not far from the entrance, which features non-stop live entertainment, all day long.
There is live entertainment on the Saturday evening of the festival weekend.
The Cranberry Marsh
Tour the Cranberry Marsh in a covered wagon, pulled by a tractor and learn about how cranberries are grown and harvested.
There’s a small store to browse through with home-made cranberry items: pie, tarts, relishes, jams, chutneys, teas, cider mixes, juice, candles, potpourri, soap, candied berries, dried berries, fresh berries and more!
Helicopter rides are available for those who want the big picture of this beautiful spot in Muskoka.
Parking at the marsh can be an adventure, so I would strongly recommend taking the free shuttle, which picks up at several spots, including right at the festival gates. There are regular pick-ups often throughout the day.
The Muskoka Winery
The Marsh is also the home of the Muskoka Winery. The winery produces red and white cranberry wine, blueberry, a rose, cranberry/blueberry, and 2 dessert wines, and a cranberry spritzer…. all of which I would recommend, my favourite being the Red Maple Dessert Wine… Mmmmm!
Sampling of the wines are available at a tasting bar in the store, for a small fee, or if you wish to learn more about each of their wines, there’s a wine tasting seminar in the tent outdoors as well.
Every year, I so look forward to the Bala Cranberry Festival, in spite of the lousy weather……I love the festival’s easy going attitude, the sights, the sounds and of course, the cranberries.