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Berkeley Springs apple butter festival pulls out all the stops

October 10, 2002|by KATE COLEMAN

katec@herald-mail.com

"The Apple Butter Festival was really the core to tourism," says Jeanne Mozier, the "voice" of the 29-year-old Berkeley Springs, W.Va., event.

That voice, which almost always is accompanied by Mozier's hearty laugh, will be audible this weekend from the bandstand in Berkeley Springs State Park in the center of town. She keeps things moving at the Saturday and Sunday festival - a variety of things, including musical performances, beard-and-mustache and hog-calling contests, a turtle race and egg toss.

The event was conceived as a Chamber of Commerce project in 1974. Mozier got involved in 1978, a year that increased the chamber's festival proceeds to $8,000 from the previous year's net of $800. The festival, which now hosts about 200 craft booths, has grown to bring in $30,000 each year for the chamber.

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The festival also brings tourists - 30,000 to 40,000 of them on a good weather weekend, says Beth Curtin, executive director of the Berkeley Springs-Morgan County Chamber of Commerce. Curtin, who says she was a "baby" away at college when the festival began, has worked the event for more than 25 years.

The festival opens Saturday with a parade saluting local veterans. There's a mini-carnival with rides and games and an exhibit at the Ice House, "Bountiful Harvest," featuring local art related to food. On Sunday, New World Theater Company will juggle, make music and eat fire.

The Morgan Community Concert Band, with conductor Bennett Lentczner, will make its festival debut Sunday. Rindi and Doug Sherbert founded the 25-30 member ensemble a year ago because they missed playing in a band as they had before they moved to town in 1999.

"Our instrumentation is very good for a beginning band," Rindi Sherbert says. "The musicians are wonderful."

Chuck Hampe will be out of town this weekend, so he won't be competing in the Beard and Mustache contest. Even if he were nearby, the self-proclaimed "mountain man" wouldn't enter. He wants to give other men a chance at a blue ribbon. His beard, growing since 1973, has been a hands-down winner in the longest and fullest category more than once.

His secret? "I don't like to shave," he says.

The hog-calling contest has grown to require junior and senior divisions. "Very early on, people figured that this was performance art," Mozier says.

The proof of the festival, however, if not in the pudding, is in the apple butter. There will be three or four steaming 55-gallon kettles of the tart-sweet-spicy stuff just begging to be stirred.

Leila Stuckey, known to Mozier as "queen of the spices," has been involved with the festival since its start. Her apple butter recipe has sort of evolved down through the years, she says, adding that she shares spicing duties with her nephew Jack Stotler.

She and her fellow senior citizens at Pleasant View Senior Center made 200 gallons of apple butter last weekend. Half of that already is sold, she says.

But there will be plenty more. Visitors can take enough home to last until next year's festival, the 30th annual, Oct. 11 and 12, 2003.

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