40th Cranberry Fest to feature Drake Bell concert

Annual celebration continues to bring Broncs together to celebrate Rider pride
Rachel Stengel '14

This year marks the 40th anniversary of Cranberry Fest. The highlight of this year's event will be a concert by singer, songwriter and actor Drake Bell on the Campus Mall. Bell has released three albums and is known for starring in hit Nickelodeon TV shows such as Drake & JoshThe Amanda Show and All That.

Anna Sanzone, a senior musical theatre major, was a part of the student committee that selected Bell as the guest performer. She hopes the addition of live music will amplify this year's historic celebration.

"I’m so excited to experience the songs that all of us grew up singing along to and seeing the smiles on everyone’s faces," she says. "It’s going to be a night to remember!"

Associate Dean of Campus Life Nick Barbati agrees that adding a live performance by a notable artist will commemorate 40th Cranberry Fest in a special way.

"Adding a live concert is just another way to bring students together for the day in a positive way," he says. "Cranberry Fest has always been about bringing the Rider community together. Music is a very powerful way to do so."

The welcome-back celebration on Sept. 14 will also feature a food festival, interactive games, including inflatable jousting and a bungee trampoline, a beer garden for Broncs 21 years and older, and — every Broncs' favorite — free "I Bleed Cranberry" T-shirts.

Cranberry Fest first began in 1979 and was designed to be a stress-relieving event for students before finals in the spring semester. A picnic-style lunch and outdoor games were the highlights of the first event. Over time, the event moved from the spring to the fall to act as a welcome-back-to-campus celebration. It also recently transformed from a weekday lunch cookout to an evening weekend celebration to continue to foster students' on-campus involvement.

"We decided to move Cranberry Fest to the weekend because it really gives the Rider community a chance to enjoy the celebration," Barbati says. "Rather than having students grab lunch and rush off to their next class, we wanted them to have the free time to relax and enjoy the experience with their classmates."

Rider's president at the time of the inaugural event, Frank N. Elliott, also wanted to educate students about Rider's relationship to cranberries and its namesake, Andrew J. Rider. He felt that students should understand the history of their college. At some previous Cranberry Fests, an actor would portray Andrew J. Rider in historically accurate attire and tell students about his connection to the University. The Cranberry King mascot would also make appearances with the Bronc over the years.

The University's cranberry and white school colors pay homage to Rider's cranberry business. He owned more than 500 acres of cranberry bogs in the 19th century near Hammonton, N.J. He was considered a leading force in the state’s cranberry industry.  Rider first became involved with a forerunner to the University, the Trenton Business College, in 1866, and held various roles within the institution, including teacher, administrator and principal/president. He became the sole owner of the school in April 1880 and helped steer the fledgling business school through a period of significant growth. Rider, who retired in 1900, also established the first endowment and scholarship for the College in 1922.