Apple Butter Festival draws a crowd to Berkeley Springs

If the weather holds and Saturday’s attendance is any indication, then Sunday’s crowd at the 41st Annual Apple Butter Festival should bring the two-day attendance to around 30,000 patrons.

That was the prediction Saturday afternoon by Beth Curtin, executive director of the Berkeley Springs-Morgan County Chamber of Commerce, which sponsors the festival.

“We always look for around 30,000 if the weather is good, and it is good today,” Curtin said.

Festival-goers had no shortage of vendors to tempt their pocketbooks or their palates. “We have about 150 arts and crafts vendors and 50 food vendors,” she said.

Saturday’s festivities opened with a parade at 9 a.m. It marched about a mile-and-a-half down Washington Street, the town’s main street.

“We registered 90 units. There must have been 2,000 people in the parade,” she said.

“I think half the children in Morgan County marched in it,” said Jeanne Mozier, the official Voice of the Apple Butter Festival.

She estimates that fewer than 20 percent of the festival’s patrons are local. “People are drawn to this festival because it’s smallish, it’s held in the middle of town, it’s not pretentious and prices of the arts and crafts are such that almost everybody can afford to buy something.”

“The festival has a true economic impact for the gas stations, restaurants, lodging and retail stores. Some merchants say it’s their best weekend of the year,” Curtin said.

Many civic groups, 4-H, scouting and other youth organizations make their annual budgets during the Apple Butter Festival by charging patrons $5 to $10 per vehicle to park in temporary lots they set up all over town, Curtin said.

Even Berkeley Springs’ mayor and council set up a parking lot behind the abandoned 99-year-old former Baltimore and Ohio passenger and freight station.

Mayor Susan Webster was directing drivers into the lot, and Councilwoman Elizabeth Skinner was collecting the $5 fee.

The council is raising money to renovate the station for some as-yet-undetermined public use. “We have about $800,000 for the project so far, mostly from grants,” Webster said.

The Stotler family of Berkeley Springs and members of the Pleasant View Community Center, are festival mainstays. Together the two groups will make, stir and sell gallons of apple butter during the festival’s two days. They fire up their kettles around 6 a.m. About 20 bushels of apples are peeled, cored or in apple butter parlance, “snitted,” and thrown into the heated kettles, along with 80 pounds of sugar — except when a batch is sugar-free— where they will be stirred for eight hours. Each bushel of apples makes two gallons of butter.

Tim Fox is president of the Pleasant View Community Center. Every year around this time the members make six kettles of apple butter or about 166 gallons, that they sell directly from the community center on W.Va. 9 east of Berkeley Springs. This weekend they will make about 90 gallons to sell at the festival.

Behind the Pleasant View tent Sandy Stotler, that family’s matriach, and her kin were making and selling apple butter just as they have been doing since the festival started 41 years ago.

She said the family’s recipe is “confidential.”

They also sell pumpkin, peach and banana butter plus apple jelly and peach jam, Stotler said.

The women of St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Hancock returned with their apple dumplings, another festival mainstay.

According to Barbara Fry, between the two festivals their church bakes dumplings for, Berkeley Springs and Hancock, they go through about 8,000 dumplings, which they sell for $3 each.

Although a bit tight-lipped about their recipe, the women did admit, “generally speaking,” that they spiral core golden delicious apples, fill the hole with undetermined amounts of cinnamon and butter and wrap it in pie crust before baking.

Adrian Battle, 28, and her lifelong friend Julia Goldman, 30, both from Washington, D.C., come to the festival “pretty much every year,” Goldman said.

“This is a nice small town festival,” she said.

“It’s an interesting combination of rural West Virginia and people interested in new age crafts and art. It’s a cute hippie town,” Battle said.

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