Berries are our business

Peninsula farmers wet-harvest cranberries in October. DAMIAN MULINIX photo

A tiny red berry is big time from Seaview and Ilwaco, east to Chinook and north to the Ocean Park area. It's a cranberry. The little berry is so big that the annual Cranberrian Fair is held in its honor.

Only about 550 acres of cranberries are grown in bogs around the Peninsula area -about half the statewide total. But cranberries make up a big part of the Peninsula's personality, so much so that it's impossible to imagine our home without its distinctive and colorful cranberry fields.

The Cranberrian Fair celebrating the harvest is held each October in Ilwaco. During the festival, guided "bog tours" allow visitors to watch the cranberry harvests in progress. The harvest begins in early October, running through the end of the month and often into November.

Grayland, which straddles the Pacific-Grays Harbor county line, is also a major producing area. Other West Coast bogs are near Ocean Shores; in Bandon, Ore.; and in British Columbia.

Cranberry vines used to create the first local crop in the 1890s were shipped from Massachusetts, which is one reason the Peninsula has been called the Cape Cod of the West. Between the turn of the century and World War I, vines were transported to the Peninsula by train-carload. Several hundred acres were planted in the Long Beach and Ilwaco areas at that time.

The 130 cranberry growers in the Long Beach and Grayland areas produce more than 15 million pounds.

The cranberry is a perennial crop, and it is not unusual to find 75- to-100-year old bogs in production.

You can visit a working cranberry bog

Expanded to twice its original size, the Cranberry Museum and Gift Shop is now open, offering more displays and gifts than ever before.

The non-profit museum is located at the Washington State University experiment station and cranberry research center on Pioneer Road in north Long Beach. There is no admission charge.

First-class exhibits cover everything there is to know about cranberries, from bog preparation to modern-day harvesting techniques."

A self-guided walking tour of a working bog is open dawn-dusk every day.

In the gift shop visitors will discover an array of items ranging from logo T-shirts to cranberry-scented candles to cranberry juice.

Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day April through December. For more information, look at www.cranberrymuseum.com.

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