A fun fest filled with mountains of scrapple

Under the supervision of "General" Jerry W. Jones, the men of Union United Methodist Church went to work Saturday, grilling 240 pounds of scrapple slabs for the annual "Apple-Scrapple All-You-Can Eat Breakfast."

While the $5.50 meal also included stewed apples, sausage and pancakes, it was the scrapple, of course, that took center stage at the fund-raiser, held as part of the annual Apple-Scrapple Festival in the Eastern Shore town of Bridgeville, Del.


"We prefer to call it 'square steak,' " Jones said of the rectangular slices cut from the solidified pudding of pork snouts, hearts and other remains mixed with cornmeal or wheat flour that is popular in Delaware, Maryland and southeastern Pennsylvania.

Living in Bridgeville, best known as home to the Rapa Scrapple company, the country's largest scrapple producer, is perhaps conducive to a self-deprecating sense of humor.


But that doesn't mean that scrapple gets a bad rapple in Bridgeville, where red, white and blue scrapple wrappers are displayed with the same pride as the American flag.

Thousands of festival goers crammed into the town not only to eat scrapple, but also to carve it, toss it and see, up close, the role it has played in Bridgeville's heritage. The scrapple celebration, which began Friday afternoon and concluded Saturday night, also featured craft displays, street rods, live bluegrass music and a staggering amount of other food offerings, including the ample apple dumplings that represented the festival's other celebrated product. T.S. Smith & Sons, an apple orchard and packinghouse, is also located in the Sussex County town.

In its 13 years, the Apple-Scrapple Festival has ballooned from a small event that attracted a modest crowd of about 2,500 to a sprawling affair that lures more than 30,000 visitors, says Donna Seefried, Rapa's vice president.

Jones, the rest of the Methodist men, their wives and children were happy to serve 700 guests who plowed through mountains of the scrapple, which was donated by Rapa. Earnings from the breakfast will go toward the church and community activities.

On Apple-Scrapple Festival day, the vacuum-packed product, made from scraps that might otherwise be discarded, spurred a windfall as well for the Bridgeville Senior Center, the Woodbridge High School Music Boosters and the Bridgeville Charge United Methodist Churches (a coalition of three churches). These groups also served hundreds of pounds of crisply fried scrapple. Their version came on white bread, accompanied by cheese, hot sauce, ketchup, mustard, grape jelly, apple butter or syrup, according to preference.

Bridgeville resident Charles Smith ordered his $3 scrapple sandwich from the United Methodist church booth, and slathered it with ketchup. He eats scrapple every day, Smith says. "I've been having it all my life."

Until a back injury forced him to retire, Smith worked at Rapa as well. "I'll always like it," he says of the local delicacy.

Smith's friend, Derrick Cuffee, of Greenwood, Del., ordered a scrapple sandwich, too. No ketchup for him, though. "I just like mine plain," he said.


Scrapple is a versatile product. You can fry it, naturally. But you also can carve it, as the festival's scrapple-carving contest demonstrated. Competition was fierce among a small field of contestants who had to produce a work of art from 2 pounds of raw, chilled scrapple in an hour.

Pegeen Brown, a vivacious kindergarten teacher from Seaford, Del., came with her tools: a paring knife, tiny spatula and an implement for picking crab. Two years ago, "I made three pigs [from her scrapple block]. I was so proud," she said. My sister made Shamu. My next-door neighbor outdid us with The Thinker. I never thought I could have so much fun with scrapple."

This year, as November's election drew near, Brown wasted no time molding a Republican elephant and a Democratic donkey facing off over an apple on which she inscribed: "Vote."

It was the 13th year of competition for Brown's arch rival, John Tomeski, a firefighter and Bridgeville resident who came equipped with a Leatherman tool. He went about creating an Elvis-like pig, complete with guitar and finely articulated locks, etched with a serrated blade.

Tomeski's masterpiece replicated this year's Apple-Scrapple logo featuring an image of a snouted Presley cruising in a street rod with his snouty girlfriend. (The firefighter also created a papier-mache King Pig for his front yard.)

Other carving-contest entries included a mare and her foal, a pair of praying hands and a model of the local high school's baseball stadium. Dane Sears of Gambrills took first place and $30 with his pig and apple, which included the campaign slogan: "Vote Apple-Scrapple 2004." It was a little less partisan than last year's winner, which was a likeness of George W. Bush, according to Renie Jefferson, a Rapa employee and carving-contest judge. "It looked just like him," Jefferson said.


Brown came in third, and a crushed Tomeski finished out of the running.

"They do some amazing things with a pound of scrapple," Seefried said last week before the festival started. She's not as impressed with another festival event called "scrapple chunkin'," which involves the shot-putlike tossing of 2- and 5-pound scrapple blocks in a field behind Woodbridge High School. "The chunkin' I don't really approve of," Seefried says. "I don't want to associate our product with being thrown and chunked."

The fledgling sport is far from disrespectful to scrapple, said Rob Perciful, Seaford High School track coach who coordinated the scrapple chunkin' contest. As he supervised contestants who wrapped their scrapple in plastic bags and sealed them with duct tape to prevent scrapple explosions, Perciful predicted, "This is going to be an Olympic event in 2008."

First, though, there were some bugs to work out. After a close encounter between a tossed scrapple loaf and a spectator, Perciful warned, "You don't ever want to be in the way of an errant scrapple tosser. It may permanently alter your personality."