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Forty years of apple, pies and community

Newfane hosts Heritage Festival

For more information, visit newfaneheritagefestival.blogspot.com or call Grip at 802-365-4366. Parking will be available across from the green in front of the Windham County Sheriff’s Department on Jail Street.

NEWFANE—Artisans, food booths, children’s games and more than 200 apple pies will grace the town green as Newfane hosts its 40th Heritage Festival on Oct. 9 and 10, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

“It really is a quintessential fall event. It has a homecoming feeling,” says co-organizer Rehama Grip.

The festival does not charge admission to enter or listen to the live entertainment.

Visitors can enjoy shopping at the over 80 vendor stalls with homemade crafts and food booths on the green or the “Deli” in the Church.

A “super raffle” with items donated by the vendors and local businesses will be set up in the Union Hall.

“Although sponsored by the church, this is truly a community event with volunteers from the [whole] community,” Grip says.

Festival proceeds support the Newfane Congregational Church and its charity work.

“It’s significant to our missionary work,” says Grip of the Church’s only major fundraiser.

Grip says the funds support a “big handful” of international, national and local individuals and programs from area food shelves, the Women’s Crisis Center, local fire departments and Grace Cottage Hospital. The congregation votes monthly on which programs to send funds to.

Organizers also reserve four vendors’ spots for nonprofits free of charge.

“We think of ourselves as a community church and we serve the community,” says volunteer and church member Merrilyn Van Gelder.

Rev. Bill Clark started Heritage Festival 40 years ago as a fundraiser for the Church, says Grip. The festival consisted of small booths with food, kids’ games, and crafts from local groups like the Ladies Aid.

“It was a very small, very local event,” says Grip.

Grip volunteers as a way of giving back. She moved to Newfane from New Jersey in 2002 and says she loved the event, experience and what it did for the community spirit when she first attended the festival. 

“I love it. It’s a lot of fun and a lot of fellowship,” says Van Gelder.

The pie recipe used by the festival bakers came from Van Gelder 15 years ago.

She says her previous church in Hamden, Conn., used the pie recipe for 35 years before she shared it with Newfane. Van Gelder doesn’t remember the name of the original cook who developed the pie recipe, but says she was a “very good” cook at the local high school.

“Everyone loved her cooking,” says Gelder.

The festival uses Paula Red apples from Green Mountain Orchard in Putney. Van Gelder says the key to a good pie is not over working the dough.

She remembers telling the volunteer pie-bakers, “When you roll out the dough, I don’t care if it looks like a map of the African continent; you can always cut it to fit [the pie pan]. It’s not Play-Doh.”

“A lot of hands are involved,” says Nissa Petrak, a volunteer of 10 years.

Petrak has rolled up her sleeves year after year, she says, because the festival is a “rewarding experience.”

Grip, and her cohorts Ted Colligan and Chris Petrak, start work on the festival in January, obtaining commitments from vendors and planning.

Come September, the serious work begins. Grip credits the elbow grease of roughly 200 “amazing” volunteers for loaning refrigerators, peeling potatoes, scrubbing the church, and baking pies.

“This week, the church is buzzing,” she says.

Approximately 3,000 people visit the festival each year, which was voted one of the Philadelphia Inquirer’s “10 for the Road” events from the mid-Atlantic to New England in 2005, says Grip.

Weather has the biggest impact on the rain-or-shine event.

Grip recommends visitors take in the sights and sounds of the festival first. Then, check out the flea (market) tent and vendors. Bring a blanket to spread on the grass and listen to local musicians.

“Visit with the vendors. They all have a story to tell,” says Grip.

Don’t forget the “homemade goodies,” she says. Grip likes the baked potatoes with toppings. Then indulge in cookies, donuts, pies or apple crisp.

The NewBrook and Leland & Gray schools will provide activities for the young ones.

Grip says the kids historically love the festival’s caramel apple and popcorn tent.

“The festival is a nice way to connect with people. The coordinators would like to send a big ‘thank you’ to all the volunteers. We wouldn’t be able to do this without them or their community spirit,” Grip says.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #70 (Wednesday, October 6, 2010).

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