WARRENS—Connie and Lester Giles had heard about the Warrens Cranberry Festival for years, but it wasn’t until Friday that they embarked on the trip from Minnesota to Warrens. They were among the thousands of visitors that descended upon the village for the 45th annual festival Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Connie Giles said her mother inspired the trip to Wisconsin.

“My mom has come more than once, and she had talked about the cranberry festival quite often over the years,” she said. “So, I decided one time I’d like to come.”

The six-day long trip to Wisconsin is also a birthday trip, Connie Giles said.

“We always go somewhere for my birthday, so this coincided really well with that,” she said.

Another reason the Mankato couple attended the festival was to purchase fresh cranberries. Connie Giles said they weren’t hard to find.

“(Now) we can make lots of cranberry things,” she said. “My mom said to bring back two bags of fresh cranberries. ... It was the first time (I got to) eat cranberries from the source, so that was neat.”

The festival was bigger than they expected it to be, Lester Giles said.

“(It has) a lot of vendors,” he said. “We have (a festival) in our area ... that has 3,000 vendors ... but this out does that by a lot.”

There were also more people than they expected, Connie Giles said. It also wasn’t as colorful as she expected it to be.

“Actually I wanted to see the cranberries floating on the water, like that visual you always get from the Ocean Spray ads,” she said. “We’re a little too early, I guess, for the harvest. There are no berries floating, but it’s still interesting to see how they’re grown — we don’t have cranberry (marshes) in Minnesota where we live.”

Connie Giles said she and her husband learned a lot on a marsh tour.

“Throughout the whole ride, there is information about the cranberry farmers and the process for raising cranberries and then about the harvest,” she said. “There’s a lot of information about the prices they get and how many cranberries are produced per acre ... it really tells you a lot about what it’s like to raise cranberries.”

Touring the marsh was fun, Lester Giles said.

“There was a lot to see — all the equipment, farm equipment, the equipment they use to pick the cranberries, that was good,” he said.

The most surprising part of the tour was seeing the cranberry vines, Connie Giles said.

“I was (surprised) at just how short the cranberry vines are, they were only like six to eight inches tall,” she said. “I was kind of surprised that they weren’t a bigger plant of some kind.”

The festival is something they’ll recommend, Connie Giles said.

“We would encourage other people to try it,” she said. “Of course, I’m always wanting to learn new things, so for me I’d just tell people to come and learn more just about cranberries.”

Lester Giles agrees. He said there’s plenty to do at the festival.

“Take a marsh tour, go through the discovery center, try the cranberry ice cream, it’s yummy — especially when it’s 100 degrees out,” he said.