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Ripe and ready

Annual festival brings out tons of sweet peaches

Annual festival brings out tons of sweet peaches

August 10, 2005|by KRISTIN WILSON

kristinw@herald-mail.com

The 26th annual Leitersburg Peach Festival gets a boost this year with an especially fruitful peach crop.

Since the spring season was so cold, peach blossoms did not emerge until later in the season, says John Martin, co-owner of Ivy Hill Farm in Smithsburg. That means fewer peach blossoms were lost to frost.

"The peach crop is going to be very good this year," he says.

Martin expects the harvest to be "just a tad larger" than previous years with excellent peach quality.

"Whenever you have dry weather - and I would consider this to be dry weather - you have a higher concentration of sugars in the peaches," Martin explains. "The peaches might be slightly smaller than previous years but they are very flavorful."

Martin and Bruce Barr, co-owner of Barr Orchards near Leitersburg, will bring about 400 bushels of peaches to the festival, sponsored by the Leitersburg Ruritan Club.

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Usually, all those bushels, totaling 20,000 pounds, are sold over the course of two days, the orchard owners say.

Soft, juicy and super sweet peaches are the focus of the Saturday and Sunday festival. More than 1,000 peach pies are sold, made with Westminster-area peaches, at a Westminster bakery. Ruritan Club volunteers hand-dip 330 gallons of Antie-tam Dairy peach ice cream and festival attendees pack away 1 ton of potatoes cut into french fries.

"Almost every statistic connected with the Peach Festival indicates that we sell great volumes of stuff," says Ray Johns, festival chairman.

The peach festival has been growing in size and scope for 26 years, Johns says. The Ruritan Club took over the event from the Leitersburg Citizens Association in the early 1980s. Since then, the event, which draws about 5,000 people over two days, has become one of the main fundraisers for the community-based service group.

"We thought the peach festival was such a good idea we moved it up into (the Ruritan Club park) and it kept expanding," Johns says.

This weekend, festival-goers can have their fill of peaches, check out more than 60 craft vendor stands, peruse a Civil War encampment, ride ponies, study antique tractors and enjoy a petting zoo.

Multiple community nonprofit organizations and churches also are participating in some way at the event, Johns says.

On Saturday, there will be a peach pie contest. Anyone wishing to enter a pie into the contest must do so by 11 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 13. All pies must be 100-percent peach. The pies will be auctioned following the noon judging.

Music will be provided by the band Ronnie Ray and The Coolers on Saturday and by DJ Lou Scally on Sunday.

Food stands will sell sausage, ham and open-pit beef sandwiches, fresh-cut french fries, funnel cakes, crab cakes and sweet corn. Peaches can be bought in the form of cobbler, tea, pie, ice cream and bread.

The money raised at the festival helps the Ruritan Club support the Leitersburg community throughout the year.

"We pay for all the street lights in Leitersburg," Johns says. "We have planted trees all through the village. We water them, trim them and replace them when they die."

The club also helps people and nonprofit organizations in the community when help is needed. Members do what they can to help someone who loses their job or to assist college-bound Leitersburg students who need financial aid.

"In the winter, we invariably buy fuel for three or four people who can't afford heating fuel," Johns says. "We have been very diligent in just doing things in the community and not getting involved with national charities."

While Leitersburg is a small community, Johns says the Ruritan Club is never at a loss to make a difference.

"There are plenty of things you can find to do to make it a better community," he says.

Peach Fest by the numbers

n Last year about 20,000 pounds of fresh peaches were sold

at the Leitersburg Peach Festival. That's the weight of two African elephants.

n Last year festival-goers ate 330 gallons of peach ice cream. That's enough ice cream to fill the diesel tanks of a tractor-trailer or a six-person hot tub.

n Almost 1 ton of potatoes cut into fresh french fries were consumed at last year's Peach Festival. That's the weight of three grand pianos or a full-size Holstein bull.

About 30,000 pounds of peaches will be on sale this weekend at the Leitersburg Peach Festival. Some recipes to try with this year's off-the-tree, fresh peaches are below:

Ivy Hill Farm Fruit Kuchen

For dough:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup butter

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 egg

2 tablespoons milk

For fruit mixture:

3 cups sliced peaches

3 eggs, beaten

1 cup sugar

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

3/4 cup milk

For crumbled topping:

1/2 cup flour

1/2 cup sugar

2 tablespoons butter

Several dashes of cinnamon to

taste

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