Why a Cherry Carnival in Bear River? Where are all the cherry trees?
Well there used to be a lot of cherry trees here. In 1780 a gentleman named George Sutherland first introduced cherry trees to the Bear River area and they flourished. The fertile soil in this valley really proved great for growing cherry trees and before long there were cherry trees everywhere. Even the smallest of farms boasted several fine cherry trees.
The Bear River cherry trees were said to be very unique as they would regenerate from seed. They did not have to be grafted like most types of cherry trees did. And the fruit was oh so sweet!
The cherry so flourished in Bear River that people came from all over seeking the fruit. The village started to hold a "Cherry Sunday" when people could rent, or buy a tree. For between fifty cents to three dollars you could buy the fruit off the tree from the local farmers. Once bought, you would bring the family to spend a day, or weekend completely picking the tree clean of the fruit.
In 1893 the local barber, George Brooks wanted to hold a day of festivities and fun during the "resting time" after the hay crop had been cultivated. In those first few years many events were held, both in the water and on land. There were four oared boat races; Indian canoe races; lots of foot races; high jump competitions and horse races held.
Around 2000 people gathered on Bear River to partake in the festivities. They came on the steamers Evangeline and W.M. Weatherspoon out of Annapolis Royal and by carriages from all over.
The festival was always held in mid to late July, when the cherry trees were ripe with fruit and it was soon known as the Bear River cherry Carnival.
In the year 1920 it was said there were 5000 spectators for the one day event. The streets were all decorated with flags, banners and bunting. There was a parade with lots of floats and marching bands. The water sports included the popular greased pole walk; swimming races; and plenty of boating and canoe events. For the land lovers there were also plenty of land sports and everywhere there were booths set up selling cherries.
But then in the early 1920's there was a big blight which wiped out the cherry trees in Bear River and surrounding area. The blight was so bad it almost wiped out the apple industry in the valley also. There were very few cherry trees left, but the Bear River Cherry Carnival still went on. Today it is one of the longest run festivals in Nova Scotia.
The Festival Today
Today the Bear River Cherry Carnival is still a one-day festival held in mid-July. It still brings in lots of visitors to this little community, 2 - 3 thousand every year. Many people plan their vacations so they can "come home" in time for the Cherry Carnival.
Bear River is such a pretty little village, nestled in between two big hills with the tidal river running through it.
The people are so friendly there, like all areas in the Annapolis Valley. It has become a village where many artists have come to live and their galleries and shops are found all over the village welcoming people to come in. The whole village is just so inviting and they know how to put on a good festival.
The Cherry Carnival is run by the Bear River Volunteer Fire Department now as a fund raiser, but all the popular events are still put on. Just some of the events you will find during the festival are:
Booths Selling Cherries
Cherry Pie Eating Contest
Cherry Spitting Contest
Bingo and Games of Chance
The Greased Pole Walk
Other Water Events, depending on the tides
Four Course Dinner at Fire Hall
Show of Recent & Antique Canoes
A Great Fireworks Display
So if you are in the area at this time I do recommend you check out the Bear River Cherry Carnival. You will definitely have a great time, meet some fantastic people and just be wowed by the beauty of this little village.