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W.Va. apple festival growing in appeal

October 19, 1997

By RICHARD F. BELISLE

Staff Writer

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Apples reign as king this weekend in Berkeley County during the 18th annual Mountain State Apple Harvest Festival, an event that draws more than 20,000 people for the three days of festivities.

As always, the highlights include the Grand Feature Parade through downtown Martinsburg, the apple pie auction, a 5K Apple Trample road race, the Panhandlers Square Dance and the big Soroptimists Grand Ball, all on Saturday.

Nancy Rodig remembers when it wasn't always like this. Rodig, 70, of Martinsburg, runs the Mountain State Apple Harvest Festival Arts and Crafts Show, an event that fills two gigantic airplane hangars with 150 juried crafters every year. It is a major festival highlight.

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Rodig is president of the Evans Run Art Association, the organization that has been sponsoring an arts and crafts show since 1975.

She remembers how five women, neighbors on Evans Run Road in the Pikeview Acres development south of Martinsburg, shared an interest in art.

"We were all empty nesters. Our children were grown and gone. Every Wednesday morning we'd get together and paint. We used to complain that there was no place for artists to show their work, no cultural activities and no crafts shows in the area so we established the Evans Run Art Association to do something about it."

Rodig became its first president, a post she still holds. The new association held its first arts and crafts show in the spring of 1975 in the parking lot of F&M Bank. "We had 40 vendors," she said.

The next year the association displayed its artwork in the local library and set up its craft show at the Youth Fair grounds, then behind Martinsburg High School, Rodig said.

They kept it going until they hooked up with the Apple Harvest Festival in 1984. That year the arts and crafts show moved to the 167th Airlift Wing of the West Virginia Air National Guard.

"We had about 50 vendors," Rodig said. "It's been growing ever since. We keep it at 150 now."

Most vendors have been returning to the festival for 15 years, she said.

"They are all juried and they all have to sell something different. We don't want any competition between them," she said.

More than 60 percent of the vendors are from West Virginia, she said.

The festival resumes today with a Kiwanis Club breakfast at the Air Guard base on Kelly Island Road. The Arts and Crafts Show opens at 10 a.m. there along with an antique car show. The festival's Queen Pomona XVIII, Andrea Paige Gess, and her court will be formally presented at noon at the base followed at 2 p.m. with apple peeling and eating contests.

For more information, visit the festival's World Wide Web site at (http://www.berkeleycounty.com/MSAHF.)

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