On the road, down the bottle, and across the border with Boston’s greatest competitive bagpipe band. ... the average Bostonian is most likely to associate bagpipes with parades, funerals, and the Dropkick Murphys. There is, however, an insular group of competitive pipers who can harness the sharp, searing cacophony of the instrument—part atonal yawp, part skull-splitting drone—and make it sing. Those graced with such virtuosic skills are rarely the ones performing at your neighborhood bar on St. Patrick’s Day or marching down Main Street on the Fourth of July. To hear their talents, you need to head to far-flung Scottish festivals and Highland Games, where bands battle one another for international supremacy. ... while they may be insane, they’re not crazy in the manner of Sonny Barger or Tommy Lee. Instead, their brand of lunacy is a rabid fanaticism for an instrument rooted in medieval warfare. Each competitor on this bus has devoted an ungodly amount of time, patience, and dollars to one of history’s most misunderstood musical pursuits. For the love of the ancient craft, they don wool kilts and knee-high knit “hose” in the dog days of summer, marching through open fields and baking in the sun. Band members include wunderkind teenagers who attend bagpiping summer camp, drum freaks who spend hours debating color schemes of snare shells, and professionals from every rung of the career ladder, who burn through a year’s worth of vacation days when competition season arrives. ... the World Pipe Band Championships, an annual event that attracted 30,000 spectators last year and was streamed live to U.K. audiences on the BBC.
When Papadellis first arrived at Ocean Spray, prices had hit rock bottom because of a massive surplus of cranberries on the market. It was nearly impossible for a farmer to turn a profit, and hatchet men from Bain & Company and Merrill Lynch had advised company brass to trim the fat and dump the brand while it was still worth selling. Papadellis had a different vision. He set out to bring the juice giant back from the brink, and by 2005 had discovered a company-saving cash cow: Craisins, those addictive little treats that are a whole lot like raisins—sweet enough to soothe a tyrannical toddler’s afternoon tantrum yet packed with enough fiber to kick-start a senior citizen’s GI tract. With boundless consumer appeal, the shriveled hulls of cranberries reduced the industry-wide glut of fruit and blossomed nearly overnight into a bite-size blockbuster that resurrected the cranberry business. ... In reality, though, Craisins were both a savior and a scourge: They hoisted profits, but the more Ocean Spray produced, the more cranberry-juice concentrate it was left holding. As a result, when Craisins sales skyrocketed, millions of gallons of viscous, bitter concentrate flooded Ocean Spray’s storage freezers. With bottled-cranberry-juice sales remaining stagnant, Papadellis worried that this excess of concentrate would soon drown the farmers, saturate the market, and send everyone back to the poorhouse. ... Two harvests after his speech at Disney, the price for a 100-pound barrel of cranberries on the open market plunged from $70 to $18. Since then, the market has continued to flounder, and today much of the cranberry industry is still sputtering in a glut of concentrate while growers increasingly face bankruptcy.