BANDON - The 73rd annual Cranberry Festival was a hit, with many people commenting that it was the "best ever."

Saturday the weather help draw record crowds, but Sunday the heavy rain put a damper on the festivities.

However, a sold-out coronation Thursday at the Sprague got the festival off to a rousing start, with Bandon High School senior Allison Hennick crowned the 2019 Cranberry Queen, and Pacific High School senior Natalie Vincent named first runner-up. Vincent and Hennick shared the title of Miss Congeniality, bestowed by court members. Vincent also received a new award, the Platform Service Award and Princess Ashley Strain, a senior at BHS, received the Steve Underdown Memorial Director's Award. All of the awards came with cash scholarships. The other princesses in the this year's court included Rylee Kreutzer and Sami Marsh, both seniors at BHS. 

Each princess gave a speech on their platform, which included hours of community service for a local charity and performed a talent, along with answering an impromptu question on stage. The were also interviewed by judges prior to the coronation. 

The Blessing of the Harvest performed by local clergy was a moving event Friday morning, with the ceremonial pouring of cranberry juice into a bog, symbolizing respect for the earth.

Friday afternoon found the Cranberry Kitchen (formerly Cranberry Food Fair/Queen of the Kitchen) contest in full swing, as four judges, including Sharon Haga, food service director for the Bandon School District, along with three representatives from festival Title Sponsor Rogue Credit Union, tasted each of the 37 entries.

Shawna Sebree was crowned the Cranberry Kitchen winner for her Siracha Spicy Tamales. Sebree, who has won the title in several previous years, was honored in the parade Saturday. Second place in the Cranberry Kitchen contest was Farrah Piccoli for her Cranberry Pinenut Sourdough bread and third place was awarded to Roxan Converse for her Cranberry Baklava. Photos of the entries will be published in next week's Bandon Western World. 

The Cranberry Bowl football game Friday night drew a record crowd, though the BHS Tigers lost to the Brookings-Harbor Bruins 28-14 (see sports, page B1).

The annual parade Saturday morning, under partly cloudy skies, was more than an hour long and featured a variety of entries, from animals to floats to music using the festival's theme of "Cranberry Carnival," with many commenting that it was the best one they'd seen in recent years. Dennis and Nora Thomason, who have been highly involved in both the Chamber and Rotary, were the parade's grand marshals. Parade winners are listed in a sidebar.

People also enjoyed related activities, including the Bandon Quilt Guild show, the VFW Bazaar and Bake Sale and Breakfast and the Lions Cranberry Run, among other events.

Saturday, the weather was warm with a few clouds, but little wind, which kept festival-goers downtown enjoying the music, food and beverage stands, vendor booths, Masons Kids' Corner, Old Town Marketplace and, new this year, a carnival featuring rides for all ages and a midway with games. 

"It was a fantastic, amazing crowd in numbers and overall feel," said Bandon Chamber of Commerce Cranberry Festival director Anthony Zunino. "I think maybe the adults were a little more relaxed because the kids had something to do. It was a neat embodiment of the overall family experience."

Zunino said he met a newlywed couple who slept in their car so they could stay for the festival because they couldn't find a motel room, and told him they enjoyed it so much, they now plan to make it a yearly anniversary visit. 

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The only negative feedback Zunino got was regarding parking, since the carnival took up a large vacant lot in Old Town that usually serves as a parking area. But organizers rented a trolley from Coos Bay that was used to transport people from uptown to Old Town. Zunino said he's already worked out the bugs for next year, if the carnival company decides to come back.

Zunino was concerned the carnival, provided by Rainier Amusements out of Portland, might not make a profit, but they did, despite the rain on Sunday, and he is grateful it all worked out. 

"They want to come back," he said. "They said that Bandon has some of the nicest and most polite children they've ever worked with."

The Street Dance on Saturday night also drew crowds, with children to 92-year-olds dancing to the sounds of Aurora. Zunino especially enjoyed throwing festival swag into the dance crowd enthusiastically, despite his broken shoulder. 

"All the pain was worth it," he joked.

During the Street Dance, Queen Allison unveiled the Mystery Person, revealed to be longtime resident Joe Sinko. Sinko, former owner and head cheesemaker of the old Bandon Cheese Factory, has contributed in many ways to the Bandon community, along with his wife Karen and family. His son Brad is now head cheesemaker at Face Rock Creamery.

Sunday, despite the rain, about 25 die-hard car enthusiasts displayed their cars along Second Street. Bands that were scheduled were moved inside the Old Town Marketplace, where they played to an appreciative audience out of the weather. Vendors said despite leaving early Sunday, they made enough on Saturday to make it worth the trip. 

Zunino has been involved with the Cranberry Festival for eight years and director for the past five. He said he loves organizing the festival and is especially grateful to interim Chamber Director Margaret Pounder and her husband Steve for all of their hard work, as well as to Colleen Bazuin, who he called his "right-hand person." Bazuin helped Zunino streamline the festival, making it run more efficiently.

"I'm grateful for all of the volunteers and sponsors and encourage everyone to patronize those businesses because if it wasn't for them, the festival wouldn't have happened," Zunino said. 

But more help is needed to keep the festival going, he added. 

"The Cranberry Festival has as good or better financial support than it ever has, yet is it in dire straits when it comes to volunteers, who put in both time and physical labor."

A Cranberry Festival planning meeting will be held in early January and people are encouraged to attend and get involved.

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