is "The Cranberry" a gathering and not a festival
In the words of John Kleske, "At the Maple Festival [where Ben Stone and John had first met] the idea was born of holding a festival which would not be a festival, but rather a gathering of musicians without the millers and gawkers that infest the usual festival." We could leave it at that: It's called a gathering because that's what John Kleske and Ben Stone conceived it to be.
I got on board with that concept instantaneously because ... (a) a festival is a BIG event, and ours would not be big. (b) a festival (particularly a music festival like Woodstock or Old Songs) tends to make a distinction between the "performers" and the "audience," whereas our event would be democratic and communal and sharing. (c) a festival is (according to Webster's 9th Collegiate) "a time of celebration marked by special observances," but although we were "celebrating" the dulcimer we were really just throwing a party.
A couple of other dulcimer-related "get-togethers" have been termed conferences and symposiums. Okay, the definitions for these fit Cranberry in a way, but the definitions include formality and common concerns.
Some other synonyms: fair, carnival, jamboree, forum, rally, convocation.
None of these seem fitting, either. One reference I came upon says, "Gathering
is the most general of terms which mean a coming or bringing together.
It implies bringing widely scattered things or people to one place but
with no particular arrangement." If anything fits us, that's
it. A coming-together. A bringing-together. The Cranberry IS arranged,
though, and well-arranged at that. The idea, however, is to make
it FEEL spontaneous and informal.