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Apple Butter Festival under way in Berkeley Springs

November 30, 1999|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. ? Andrew Pecora routinely takes his family's Ford Escape to the Baltimore-area car dealership where Tom Reynolds manages the service department.

But it wasn't until Saturday at the 33rd annual Apple Butter Festival in Berkeley Springs ? about 100 miles from home ? that their respective, blue ribbon-winning beards finally brought them together.

"My wife (Amy) recognized him right off the bat," Pecora said of Reynolds and his bushy white beard after they were recognized by judges assembled for the festival's beard and mustache contest.

Pecora's mass of red, curly facial hair grew in the last six weeks and was deemed the "judges' choice."

Reynolds' was chosen as the "neatest" beard, netting the 53-year-old Baltimore man an eighth win in the contest.

"When I first started coming here, it wasn't white," Reynolds said. He said he started growing his beard at age 21, and has yet to shave it off.

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Reynolds said he won the contest three years in a row, but missed the festival last year.

The rainy conditions that returned again this year were not enough to keep Reynolds and thousands like him from coming back.

"It's worth coming out," said Barbara Braley of Middle River, Md. "If they didn't show up, they missed out."

Dozens of people formed a line more than 30 yards long in the middle of Fairfax Street in order to buy some of the Pleasant View Community Center's prized apple butter, which again was named by festival judges as the best tasting.

Jim McCormick of Arbutus, Md., said he waited about an hour to purchase four freshly jarred pints, the limit set by the center's volunteer apple butter-making crew in order to share their homemade goodness with as many people as possible. Proceeds benefit the community center, which is off W.Va. 9 near Morgan County's boundary with Berkeley County.

"When you want the best, you've got to come here," said Mike Fox, the group's unofficial spokesman. "The buck stops here."

The center's enduring presence at the festival was recognized by organizers who inducted the group into the Apple Butter Hall of Fame this year, along with Doug Sensel of Helsley-Johnson Funeral Home, who is the sponsor of the egg tossing competition, and Citizens National Bank.

Beth Curtin, the festival's executive director for more than 25 years, said inclement weather did not dampen the two-day event's success.

The event generates more retail business for the area than any other weekend of the year. About 200 vendors are taking part in the festival, which continues today at noon.

"One of the philosophies that Beth and I have is not to change anything," said Jeanne Mozier, the "voice" of the festival. "We even try to put the vendors in the same places."

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