By Kris Leonhardt
WISCONSIN RAPIDS – The Wisconsin Rapids area is the largest cranberry-producing region in the world, accounting for almost 30 percent of the cranberry supply.
Wisconsin Rapids Area Convention & Visitors Bureau Executive Director Laura Nelson said what started out as an event to celebrate that industry has now become a means to celebrate the Wisconsin Rapids area itself.
“It started out as a festival to celebrate the (cranberry) industry and what it has become is something a little bit different,” she said. “We now celebrate our blossoming community.”
Now in its 11th year, the extended weekend packs nearly 30 events into a solid four days of activity, beginning with Lunch by the River and ending with a performance by the Aqua Skiers Show Team.
“We have some flagship events that have been here since the beginning – the Arts, Crafts, & Cranberries Fair hosted by the Heart of Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce – that is something people certainly look forward to,” added Nelson. “What has grown is the Cranberry Blossom Festival Riverfront Carnival. That started out just being carnival games that took place at Witter Field… now it has become a full-fledged carnival that takes place on the Riverfront, celebrating our downtown. So, that has been around a while and it has certainly evolved over the years.”
“The parade is also a huge staple,” added Marketing Communications Director Morgan Simon.
“Stalking the Elusive Wild Cranberry is new this year. The Central Wisconsin Cultural Center is hosting it. They are taking people who are interested out to Sandhill Wildlife Refuge to look for wild cranberries.”
“It’s four days and each day is packed with stuff for someone, depending on what you are looking for.”
“Thursday is a really fun family night, with the chalk contest and Cinema under the stars,” said Simon. “Both are themed around the Lion King this year. So, the chalk art is based on whatever movie is showing at the Cinema Under the Stars.
“There are food vendors down there and that is a really fun family night.
“The festival in general is very family-friendly, but it is a fun little kick-off night, with the kids being out of school (that) week. They can do Lunch by the River, then come back and enjoy some other events in the evening.”
On June 16, the Friends of Rapids Music, Music Fest will bring back their lineup of area bands, featuring nine different acts.
“It is a really neat use of Robinson Park, because it is an underused band shell and it is neat that the music community here, in the area, recognizes that and makes great use of it throughout the entire Saturday of Blossom Fest,” said Nelson
“They start at 10:30 (a.m.) and it goes to 10 p.m. and they have a large variety of music from different genres throughout the day, and they have their headliner at 8 p.m.,” Simon added. “They try to have local music during the day.”
This year’s headliner is “Hip Pocket,” featuring top 40, R&B, Latin-infusion, jazz, pop, modern, and classic rock hits.
For a full list of acts performing at the Music Fest, visit http://www.frmgroup.org.
The Cranberry Blossom Festival runs June 14-17, in and around the Wisconsin Rapids downtown. For a full line-up of Blossom Festival activities, visit www.blossomfest.com.