Back when as many as 5,000 acres of rural Cape May County were planted in lima beans, West Cape May billed itself as the lima bean capital of the world, or at least of the country. The Rea family alone planted 700 to 1,200 acres of limas every year. “The sandy soil lets the plants breathe,” says Diane Rea, “and the salt air is good for them. There’s usually a breeze, and it cools them down so they don’t burn up.”
The bounty gave rise to an annual Lima Bean Festival, complete with lima bean cookoff and lima bean king and queen. In the 1990s, however, Guatemala usurped West Cape May’s position as leading producer.
Today, the Reas plant only 10 acres of their 100-acre farm in limas—just enough to sell at their farm market.
Guatemala or no Guatemala, the Lima Bean Festival continues undiminished. On October 10 (the 11th in case of rain), local restaurants will compete in the cookoff, presenting soups, stews, casseroles, succotash, and possibly lima bean ice cream and lima bean cake (made from lima bean flour). The king and queen will be drawn from names in a hat, and paper crowns with smiley-face lima beans on them will be placed on their heads.
No matter the crop, harvest time is happy time. Abundance makes us giddy, and should make us grateful. As the year hastens to its conclusion, with daylight waning and temperatures dropping, festivities take on a certain urgency. Yet in October there is still enough light, and possibly the warmth of Indian summer, to encourage us to stay outdoors a while longer, to pick pumpkins, bob for apples, drink hot cider, watch the kids dive into piles of leaves. Here is a chronological roundup of a selection of harvest festivals taking place this month.
9th Annual Oktoberfest
Certain to be the wurst of times, the one-day event, sponsored by the Highlands Business Partnership, will feature live oom-pah music and dancing, German food (and not-so-German food, like caramel popcorn), face painting, a beer garden, and fireworks at 7:30 pm. Veteran’s Park, intersection of Bay and Shrewsbury Avenues, Highlands, 2 to 10 pm, Saturday. Admission free. Raindate, Oct. 4. highlandsnj.com/hbp.
Grand Harvest Festival
The New Jersey Wine Growers Association presents this festival at Alba Vineyards. Hundreds of New Jersey wines, many of them award-winners, will be available for tasting. Where there’s wine, there’s food. Not to mention artisan vendors, children’s activities, and live entertainment. Alba Vineyards, 269 Route 627, Milford, noon to 5 pm, Saturday and Sunday. Tickets $20; anyone under 21 free. 609-588-0085, newjerseywines.com; 908-995-7800, albavineyard.com.
7th Annual Garden State Garlic Gathering
Garlic growers will answer questions for home gardeners and offer varieties that thrive in the Garden State as well as garlic vinegar, garlic honey, variety packs, sauces, and spreads. Intersection of routes 15 & 94, Lafayette, 11 am to 4 pm, Saturday and Sunday. garliconline.com and jerseygrown.com.
Clam chowders can be divided into two categories—red and white. But within those, almost anything goes. Upwards of eighteen restaurants and caterers will compete for the silver platter, to be awarded Sunday after a cookoff (the 21st annual) in which all festivalgoers may vote. Food critic and talk-show host Ed Hitzel and a panel of judges will bestow critics’ choice awards. Unlimited chowder tastings go on all weekend. Be prepared for funny costumes, balloon animal artists, live entertainment, and signs like “Chowda Patrol” and “Chowda Conditions: Lots of Clams!” Rain or shine under tents at Taylor Avenue ballfield, Ninth Street and Taylor Avenue, Beach Haven, 11 am to 4 pm, Saturday and Sunday. Tickets $20, Children 4-12, $10. visitlbiregion.com/visitors/things-to-do/chowderfest.
20th Annual Cranberry Festival
All manner of cranberry edibles will be available along with burgers, pulled pork, fish and chips, and other fun foods. Crafts ranging from marionettes to candles to woodwind instruments will be for sale. Kids can look forward to face painting, pony rides, and rock climbs. An antique and classic car show will take place on Saturday. Farnsworth Avenue, Bordentown, 11 am to 5 pm, Saturday and Sunday. Admission free. 609-298-9066, downtownbordentown.com.
Seafood & Music Festival
Children and adults can compete in a pie-eating contest with a choice of cherry or apple pies. Trophies for (urp) winners. Another contest will feature area restaurants vying for best chowder honors, with samples for all, and voting by festivalgoers. You can expect lots of food, desserts, a kiddie train ride, pumpkin painting, and live entertainment on two stages. Atlantic Avenue between Wildwood and Schellenger Avenues, Wildwood. 11 am to 7 pm, Saturday. Admission free. 609-729-4000, gwcoc.com.
Lima Bean Festival
West Cape May
In addition to the lima bean festivities, there will be crafts and antiques for sale, and live entertainment. Wilbraham Park, 500 West Perry Street, West Cape May. 9 am to 5 pm, Saturday. Admission free. (Rain date: Oct. 11) 609-884-9325, westcapemaytoday.com.
Cape May Wine Festival
Most members of the Garden State Wine Growers Association—25 of 32 wineries—will be offering, all told, about 250 different wines. Unlimited tastings for adults cost $20 per person. About half a dozen restaurants from Cape May County allied with the Slow Food movement will be selling food, including a fair amount of seafood that pairs well with wine. There will be a tent for kids activities, including face and pumpkin painting. Two rock bands will play. The festival will be held on a roughly four-acre grassy field between the ferry terminal and the ocean, a delightful spot.
Lewes-Cape May Ferry Terminal, Cape May. Noon to 5 pm, Saturday and Sunday. Admission free. newjerseywines.com.
3rd Annual Garlic
Learn which species of garlic grow well in the Garden State and how to grow them. Sample a variety of garlic-flavored foods and novelties. 1301 Hudson Street, Hoboken. 1 to 5 pm. garliconline.com
25th Annual Cranberry Festival
More than 160 artists and craftspeople will present their work. Breakfast will be served at the Chatsworth Volunteer Firehouse. Visitors will be offered cranberry bog tours. Cover band Jersey Bound (playing tunes of the Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and Bad Company) will perform from 11 am to 4 pm. Proceeds benefit the fund to restore Chatsworth’s White Horse Inn. Main Street (Route 563) and downtown Chatsworth. 9 am to 4 pm, Saturday and Sunday. Admission free, $5 donation for parking at the public school off Second Street. cranfest.org.
Fall Blues and Pumpkin Festival
The festival is held at Alba Vineyards in the Musconetcong Valley of Warren County, two miles east of the Delaware River. For $10, adults will receive a souvenir etched Alba wineglass and may sample the vineyard’s wines. B.C. and the Blues Crews will perform. Burgers, hot dogs, and sandwiches may be purchased, or bring your own picnic. Kids can take pony and horse-and-carriage rides, have their faces painted, paint pumpkins, and moon bounce. Alba Vineyards, 269 Route 627, Milford. Noon to 5 pm, Saturday and Sunday. Admission free. 908-995-7800, albavineyard.com.
Not strictly a harvest festival, but certainly a kashrut cornucopia. More than 300 exhibitors from fourteen countries will show products at this trade show for kosher food and beverages. New products will vie for prizes in seventeen categories. On the 28th, chefs will compete in a kosher sandwich face-off. Meadowlands Exposition Center, 355 Plaza Drive, Secaucus. Tuesday 10 am to 5 pm, Wednesday 10 am to 4 pm. Tickets $30 in advance, $60 at door. kosherfest.com.
Click on the links below to read our Fall Day Trips stories:
Take A Hike: Aching feet and burning quads are a small price to pay for a trek on New Jersey’s Appalachian Trail.
Shudder And Quake: From fright fests to haunted hayrides, ghostly attraction abound in NJ.