A Festival in Fogo

One of the nice things about travel is that you get to discover new things, starting obviously enough with new geographies…but extending to new activities, new foods, new drinks, new accents, sometimes new languages—and, as it turns out, new festivals. Maybe that’s why our current vacation spot is called Newfoundland.

We’ve had some fun adventures already, and set out looking for more. So we left our rented cottage in Twillingate on the north Atlantic, headed south, and hopped the Norcon Galatea ferry to Fogo Island.

Fogo Island is the largest of the off-shore islands up here, about 15 miles long by 8 miles wide, and boasts a population of nearly 3000. Fogo has had permanent settlements dating to the early 1600s, and the island saw visits by Beothuk natives for hundreds of years before that. It was mostly settled by the French and the Irish in pursuit of seal skins, cod, and lumber (presumably not all at the same time, as I don’t think seals and cod hung out in the forest).

A number of small villages dot Fogo Island, including the artist community of Joe Batt’s Arm. As the story goes, Joe Batt was a member of Captain Cook’s crew in the 1700s that either deserted, was thrown overboard, or fell overboard. In any case, all accounts agree that he eventually swam ashore. Also of note for us is that Joe Batt shared a last name with one side of Souzz’s family. Perhaps Joe Batt was a distant relation, we don’t know. But Souzz has been calling me Captain Cook all week–so you can imagine why my learning Joe Batt’s story was a little disconcerting.

Anyway, it turns out that we set off for Fogo Island during their annual Partridgeberry Festival. I’d never heard of partridgeberries until we drove past the sign for the festival at the local hockey arena. Wikipedia describes partridgeberry bushes as “creeping prostrate herbacious woody shrubs,” hardly befitting of a berry that can inspire it’s own festival.

I’ve since learned that partridgeberries have a huge range that extends south to Florida, but they are especially plentiful up here–including a bunch right around our cottage. We sampled a few and they are pretty tart, which is why they are commonly mixed with some sort of sugar to make a jam or a preserve.

As for the festival, Fogo Island’s Iceberg Arena had cars stacked in all directions, including ours, and the live music could be heard from a block away. Inside the arena, we found hundreds of people, a fiddle band, local artists and authors, crafts, lots of food, and a bunch of products from this ubiquitous berry. There were jams, spreads, preserves, and even partridgeberry mayonnaise, all for sale. We did our part for the local economy, reinforcing our love for creeping prostrate herbacious woody shrubs.

Shockingly, we felt like we were the only folks at the festival that came from Virginia. But like all of our Newfoundland experiences on this trip, we felt quite at home and were greeted with smiles all around. You could even say we were welcomed with open arms (not to be confused with Joe Batt’s, of course).

2 thoughts on “A Festival in Fogo

  1. I love the blog! These berries look to be very closely related to Lingonberries (low bush cranberries) that are found in our boreal forests. The doughnuts and hickory nut cakes are lovely too. Especially along side the old family photos. Love it!

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