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Eldersburg Apple Festival celebrates old-style fun


After seven years, Elaine Sweitzer decided to break tradition and get fritters instead of a dumpling at the annual Apple Festival at Piney Run Park in Eldersburg yesterday.

fTC The choice came easily for the park naturalist and Manchester resident once she decided she could also buy a few apple dumplings to take home.

In the background, a trio called Wherligig played Celtic tunes on hammered dulcimer and other stringed and percussion instruments.

On the tennis courts, families combined efforts to stuff straw into old clothes to make scarecrows.

Larry Cook and Melissa Ecker of Sykesville were left to finish a scarecrow after four of their five children got bored. The stuffing part is the most fun, they said.

Mr. Cook and Ms. Ecker enjoyed the one-day festival, they said, including the hay ride on which they sent their children.

"We sent all the kids while we took a little breather," Ms. Ecker said.

While some children painted pumpkins to enter in a contest, others got their own faces painted.

Crafts people sold dried flowers, wooden toys, handmade dolls and herbs. The Carroll County Bird Club had set up a display of winter birds and a telescope festival-goers used to spot birds on Piney Run Lake.

The fruit everyone came to honor was in high profile, with a stand by Bachman Valley Farms selling apples, cider and apple butter.

But the stars were Mrs. Bonnie Smith's famous apple dumplings, fritters and "fry pies." Mrs. Smith, of Finksburg, has organized the volunteer concession stand at the apple festival since it started seven years ago.

This year, she and the volunteers rolled and wrapped 429 dumplings, she said. They also expected to sell 200 fry pies, an apple-filled and deep-fried turnover. For the fritters, she brought 90 pounds of flour, 14 gallons of milk and 21 dozen eggs, and planned to mix up batches until she ran out of ingredients or the festival closed.

Mrs. Smith and her father, Jack Ruby, serve on the Piney Run Park Council, and the whole extended family took part in the apple festival.

Two of Mrs. Smith's nieces, Annie and Clara Werner, dressed in old-fashioned clothes and demon strated early American cooking. Annie, 14, was beating biscuit dough with a wooden mallet to make beaten biscuits.

She pointed to a basket of free samples.

"Kind of hard," she said. "But I guess if you were in the middle of the Civil War and low on supplies, they'd be a real treat."

"They were a treat," Mrs. Smith said. "They used to ration them out instead of hard tack. Hard tack was kind of like a very dry, hard cracker."

The half hour of beating Annie was doing wouldn't be necessary with today's flour, Mrs. Smith said. "Today, I would just use a regular biscuit recipe," she said.

Anyway, the beaten biscuits were just the thing for Annie's cousin, Blair Redney of Sykesville. Blair, 16, had walked over from the face-painting booth he was working to get some more biscuits.

"Well," Blair said, "I don't like apples, so . . ."

While the day was sunny and the weather crisp, the wind caused the only disappointment.

"It's usually the last chance to go out on the lake for a boat ride," Ms. Sweitzer said, "but we had to cancel them because of the wind."

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