All of the necessary ingredients for a fun summer night will be melded together at the 24th annual Pine Barrens Festival at the Church of the Holy Eucharist in Tabernacle from Monday, July 23 to Saturday, July 28.
The festival will begin nightly at 6 p.m. with rides gearing up at 6:30 p.m. and activities will span until 11 p.m.
It is free to attend with no charge for parking in the surrounding areas, including at the school and Russo’s Farm Market across the street.
Volunteers from the Pinelands communities of Medford, Chatsworth/Woodland, Medford Lakes, Vincentown/Southampton, Shamong/Indian Mills and Tabernacle will be recognized on their respective “town nights.”
“We’re recognizing volunteers, and we solicit from the townships,” said church pastor Fr. Andrew Jamieson.
The awards are given at the bandstand at 9 p.m.
Majestic Midways based out of York, Pa., will provide rides.
“They are really, really good,” said Fr. Jamieson, as the company has been providing the rides, including a big Ferris wheel, for a few years.
Those interested in hopping on the rides can purchase a bracelet in advance at the church at a discounted price of $20 for one entire evening. At the festival, tickets will be $25.
With an average of 35,000 to 40,000 visitors over the five nights, people are bound to reconnect with lost acquaintances.
“A lot of times people haven’t touched base,” he said.
For families coming to the festival, photographer Ernst Linnemann, who has attended the last 23 of 24 events, suggests stopping by the food tent for plentiful dinner options.
“They prepare fresh vegetables every day,” he said.
Not to forget the fresh fish that is delivered and cooked each night, or a pierogi during Thursday’s Polish night.
“Thursday night is the most popular night of the week for us,” he explained.
Food choices, said Fr. Jamieson, include: traditional hot dogs and hamburgers, cheesesteaks, Italian sausage, salads, kids meals, chicken breasts, shrimp, crabs, corn on the cob and poppers.
To add to the Pinelands atmosphere of the festival, country western music will play through WXTU on Monday and Saturday.
Other bands playing will include Hot Sounds DJ, Mid Life Crisis and Denny O Trio & DV Steven Hoffman.
There will be a dance floor “where folks can dance,” said Linnemann.
Through the years, the biggest change has been the number of area residents coming out.
“Basically it’s the same wonderful family atmosphere and celebration that we have at the festival that has been maintained,” said Fr. Jamieson.
It’s an easygoing festival, but sometimes noisy, Linnemann said.
“If you have the right attitude you can have a lot of fun,” he added.
Between 700 and 800 volunteers help with the event, and Linnemann takes all of their photographs.
“A lot of husbands and wives and children team up,” he said.
He has even seen family reunions at the picnic tables set up on the lawn, with up to 30 people in one group.
Between the games, rides, raffles, food and entertainment, there is something for everyone, explained both officials.
“Come on down any night,” Linnemann said. “Everybody can have fun.”
As an added bonus, there is a Super 50/50 raffle each year. According to the church’s website, last year’s winner won $18,000.
“The festival brings so many people from all the different townships together just to enjoy a wonderful family night together,” said Fr. Jamieson.
The festival will be held in rain or shine.
The church is located at 520 Medford Lakes Road, Tabernacle.
Call (609) 268-8383 with any further questions.