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'Beaucoups' of berries

June 05, 2005|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

ROHRERSVILLE - A slight breeze ruffled the fronds of an aging willow tree and dark clouds hovered over the hills nestling the valley, while the tangy scent of cooking hamburgers mingled with the sweet smell of fresh strawberries.

It was Saturday afternoon at Rohrersville Ruritan Park, home of the Ruritan Club's Strawberry Festival.

A little before the park's gates opened at 11 a.m., Ruritan Club members were busy cooking burgers, oysters and country ham for sandwiches, making french fries and getting their ice cream scoops ready.

No strawberries were yet in sight, but it was only a matter of time.

"We got beaucoups of 'em back there," Lloyd Smith, president of the Ruritan Club, said as he motioned to a pavilion's back room.

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Nobody seemed to know exactly when the Strawberry Festival started, although the best guesses indicate it was 40 to 50 years ago. The festival was halted for some years, but renewed about a decade ago.

"It's a crop at this end of the county, and everybody likes strawberries," Smith gave as reasons for the festival, although he said the number of local strawberry growers has dwindled.

The berries used for the festival were purchased from a local distributor, but probably not grown nearby, festival organizers said.

Among the items available were strawberry shortcakes, quarts of berries, and cones and gallons of vanilla, chocolate or strawberry ice cream.

Smith said his favorite dessert using the berries is shortcake with ice cream on top.

Mt. Zion Youth Group members were at the park and set up games, including bingo, dime pitch, ring toss and a football toss.

A barker-in-training practiced his "Hey, get your cotton candy!" pitch to passers-by. A commercial cotton-candy machine was purchased at an auction to be used at the festival, said Carol Homan, leader of the youth group.

It was spinning - of course - strawberry-flavored cotton candy.

Homan listed her favorite strawberry food as strawberry pie.

Youth Group member Kayla Smith prefers strawberry funnel cakes.

"The cotton candy's better," Homan said.

Bethel United Methodist Youth Group members also were present, offering games and face painting.

Ruritan Club member Kenneth Bolt was attending to a table where raffle tickets were sold.

"I like the ice cream myself," Bolt said.

Jim Hart and Paul Umberger were tasked with "capping" fresh strawberries that would be mashed and used in the shortcake. Using a small tool, in one motion they scooped out the greenery from the tops of berries.

Hart prefers strawberry parfait, made with lemon pudding and whipped topping.

Umberger said he can't get enough strawberry preserves. His wife's rhubarb and strawberry cake ranks a close second, he said.

Proceeds from the festival are used for Ruritan activities and maintenance of the park, which is owned and cared for by the club.

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