Wisconsin has had a long love affair with the cranberry. The round, red berry is one of just three fruits native to North America (along with Concord grapes and blueberries). Native Americans enjoyed cranberries fresh from Wisconsin’s river marshes. Crushed and combined with dried deer meat and melted fat, they made pemmican – a staple Indian food that kept for a long time.
Europeans first harvested cranberries in Wisconsin around 1860 near Berlin. Early settlers called them “craneberries” because the fruit’s blossoms resemble the sandhill crane. Over time, the “e” was dropped to make cranberries.
Today, the state’s cranberry industry is concentrated in central and northern Wisconsin. Wisconsin growers produce more of the tart, red berries than any other state in the nation. In fact, Wisconsin produces more than half the world’s supply of cranberries. The cranberry is Wisconsin’s official state fruit. It is also the state’s number one fruit crop, with 18,000 acres in cultivation worth $160 million annually to Wisconsin growers.
All this means the cranberry harvest in late September and early October is a big deal in the Badger State. Wisconsin celebrates with a trio of large cranberry festivals in Stone Lake, Eagle River and Warrens. The three festivals add their local flair to an array of activities with each offering a huge art & craft fair, flea market, farmer’s market, a parade, entertainment, cranberry products galore, food of all descriptions, and opportunities to tour local cranberry marshes during the colorful harvest.
Warrens is also the home of the Wisconsin Cranberry Discovery Center whose dioramas and exhibits tell the cranberry story and showcase the industry’s unique equipment developed by Wisconsin growers. Be sure to try the cranberry ice cream!
Cranberries – a Wisconsin original that’s not just for Thanksgiving anymore.