Middleboro Herring Run Festival reels in a crowd

Apr 13, 2024

MIDDLEBORO — People are coming from all over the region to bear witness to the annual passage of the herring upstream in the Nemasket River, and to enjoy one of Middleboro’s biggest events of the year, the Herring Run Festival. 

The festival weekend kicked off on Saturday, April 13.  

Middleboro Tourism Committee Chair Nate Demers said that despite the intermittent rain showers on opening day, “it’s been a great turnout”. 

The event is organized by the Middleboro Tourism Committee.

“The herring are running, so that’s a big draw,” he added.  

Demers calls the festival the “big kick off spring event” in town. It draws anywhere from 8,000 and 10,000 people from all over throughout the course of the weekend, he noted. 

The event, held at Oliver Mill Park, celebrates the migration of herring from Narragansett Bay upstream into the Nemasket River and to the Assawompset Pond complex, where they will spawn. 

The fish usually make their treks from mid-March to early May, according to the Middleboro-Lakeville Herring Fishery Commission.

This year however, just like the previous years, some were spotted as early as February, noted fish warden Dave Cavanaugh. 

Cavanaugh said they “pushed in strong for a week and then disappeared for three weeks because of the rain and the gloomy weather. Just in the last three or four days, however, they’ve pushed in again.” Right now, he added, “there’s a good number.” 

Pat Freitas, a Middleboro resident who has attended the festival every year since it started, said the event has played an important part in bringing people to the area, and teaching people about the herring.  

There is much more to the event beyond watching silvery fish swim upstream, however. 

There were food trucks, a variety of vendors, live music and even alpacas to accompany the fish viewing. About 80 vendors were at this year’s event, according to Demers. The alpacas came from Hidden Hollow Alpacas, a family farm in Dighton. 

One of the festival attendees was Joe Spencer, of Taunton, who brought his three-year-old son Gunner, and said he came “to spend a day with the family and have fun.” Although he is a fisherman, he said, his favorite part of the festival is the food. 

“Last year,” he said, “I don’t even think the herring were here and it was still pretty busy.”

Isaiah Hardaway, who lives right beside Oliver Mill Park, said he likes “everything” about the festival, while his sister Aria noted that her favorite part is the fresh-squeezed lemonade stand. 

Demers describes the Herring Run as a “behemoth” event, and says he hopes that “people see something like this” and can “appreciate that [it] is organized by 11 people in town.” 

“I hope it inspires people to want to get involved in town,” he added.