Apple Festival continues local tradition in Salem

By Corey Sipe - ReminderNews
Salem - posted Tue., Oct. 29, 2013
Doug Platz is hard at work making apple pancakes in the Christian Community Center kitchen at the Oct. 26 Salem Apple Festival. Photos by Corey Sipe.
Doug Platz is hard at work making apple pancakes in the Christian Community Center kitchen at the Oct. 26 Salem Apple Festival. Photos by Corey Sipe.

It wouldn’t be fall in southeastern Connecticut without the Congregational Church of Salem’s Apple Festival, where the sweet aromas of baked goods attract hungry people from throughout New England.

Shirley Dubeau, chairman of the festival, said that 1,118 apple pies were sold at the 44th annual event on Saturday, Oct. 26.

The Rev. Timothy Dubeau, pastor of the Congregational Church of Salem, said that preparations began in mid-September for 15 to 20 church and community volunteers.

Some of the apple-based products featured included pies, crumb pies, Swedish pies, Apple Bettys, apple turnovers, apple fritters, hot dogs with apple-flavored sauerkraut, apple cakes, and apple sundaes. Between 120 and 130 bushels of apples were used. Whoopie pies were also for sale, along with a small craft area.

On the day of the festival, between 50 and 60 volunteers of all ages performed tasks such as running booths, making coffee, preparing food, hauling recyclables and garbage, transporting frozen pies, and waiting tables at the apple café, which served pancakes and coffee.

Linda Parker has run the apple fritter booth for the past 25 years, which she calls the “busiest booth of all of them.” She added, “People will wait 45 minutes in line for fritters.”

Arlene Smith used to run the apple cafe but now runs the cheese booth, where 40 pounds of cheese are cut, sliced and sold. “I enjoy getting everything ready for the apple festival day; it’s always a lot of fun,” Smith said.

Judy Gadbois has volunteered for the festival since its beginning in 1970, when she co-chaired the festival with Priscilla Howard. She said that the festival sold 200 pies that year and also took orders. “We learned things throughout the years,” Gadbois said, explaining that it was challenging to take orders, as some folks wanted pies for different days or as late as Thanksgiving.

Now, apple pies are sold the day of the festival until they run out. 

“I love all the people and the fact that we can work together and learn something new and teach skills to the younger people,” Gadbois said, adding that young people start working in the apple cafe waiting on people and move up to other posts.

“We’ve grown to both sides of the street with apple pies and the apple cafe at the Christian Community Center and fritters, quilts, hot dogs and pie sales by the piece on the other side,” Gadbois said.

Health rules have also changed over the years, Gadbois said. “We can’t do the baking at home, it all has to be done in our kitchen,” she explained.

This was the first year that baking was done in the brand new large kitchen of the Christian Community Center.

Dubeau said that while the festival originally began to pay the mortgage of the church, proceeds later went to pay for capital improvements to church buildings and grounds, including the new Christian Community Center.

For the past eight to 10 years, a percentage of the profits were designated to the missionaries. This year, 22.5 percent will go toward this cause.

“The level of community support seems to bear out the fact that people enjoy working together and it’s a chance to renew old relationships and gather as a community,” Dubeau said. “[It is] perhaps the town’s largest event during the year, and we are glad to be a part of it and glad to bring people together.”

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