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Local flavor is big draw at festival

October 26, 2003|by TAMELA BAKER

tammyb@herald-mail.com

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - Compared to other local fall events, the Apple Butter Festival sponsored Saturday by the Shepherdstown Fire Department was small in scale - all the craft vendors fit inside the fire hall just west of town.

But it's long on loyalty, with local residents making a point to show up and support the fire department in one of its biggest annual fund-raisers.

There were several tables with crafts - stuffed snowmen, furniture, hand-carved walking sticks and some Halloween millinery in the form of witches' hats. There were even a few antiques and some second-hand books.

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Shoppers could also pick up a laser wood cut of their favorite Civil War general.

Area churches sold lunch and confections to hungry patrons.

But the main attraction was the apple butter.

"We hope to make 2,500 to 3,000 quarts this year," said Denny Barron, the fire department's treasurer. "2,500 is more realistic."

Still, they were off to a pretty good start - there were 19 vats of the stuff cooking Saturday afternoon. Three more kettles had been prepared earlier in the week, he said.

"We swear by Domino sugar and Royal seasoning," he said, adding that there were about 40 people "in and out" working the kettles.

And if there's a fire while the department's cooking apple butter?

"I go beg people to help," Barron said.

For several visitors, stopping by was a nice activity for a sunny, late October day.

Gerald McLaughlin, who lives on Sharpsburg Pike in Washington County, was passing through with a friend.

"We just come by and seen it," he said, and decided to stop. They liked the crafts, but they hadn't made any purchases.

Not so for Judy Ropp and her daughter, Amy Olack, who came over from Martinsburg, W.Va.

"I've bought lots of baked goods and crafts, and now I'm waiting on the apple butter," Ropp said.

For someone who'd done all that shopping, Ropp's arms were curiously empty. Olack had an answer for that.

"All of our stuff is back there with our husbands," she said, pointing to the back of the fire hall. "We're feeding them to keep them happy."

Paula Hammond of Shepherdstown said the festival, now in its 14th year, is an annual ritual.

"I know a lot of people and I come every year," she said.

She even had a favorite crafter.

"I bought some jewelry from Dr. Smith," she said, adding that she follows him from festival to festival to buy his hand-painted creations.

For his part, Jerry Smith said he sells his wares at the Apple Butter Festival every year. A semi-retired professor of mathematics at Shepherd College, Smith said he'd been painting for 55 years - since age 15.

Painting "was always just a hobby," he said. Math, on the other hand, is his real vocation.

"I started in engineering, but the only thing I liked was the math," he said

Barron hopes the math adds up considerably for the Shepherdstown Fire Department. The goal for this year's festival was to raise $10,000 toward maintaining the department and paying for the building and equipment, he said.

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