Last updated: October 17. 2013 5:44PM - 1010 Views
MARY THERESE BIEBEL mbiebel@timesleader.com

Youngsters hop as fast as they can in a feed-bag race at a previous Apple Festival at Heller's Orchard.
Youngsters hop as fast as they can in a feed-bag race at a previous Apple Festival at Heller's Orchard.
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What: Heller’s Orchard Fall Apple Festival

When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday with an outdoor church service at 9:30 a.m. Sunday

Where: Heller’s Orchard, Route 239, Wapwallopen

More info: 570-379-3516

You can toss a frying pan. Find a partner and saw your way through a log. Or step into a feed sack and try not to trip as you jump through a race.

Those are just a few of the good-natured, old-fashioned contests you’ll find this weekend at the 25th annual Apple Festival at Heller’s Orchard in Wapwallopen.

The event, which benefits St. Peter’s United Church of Christ in Hobbie and St. John’s United Church of Christ in Wapwallopen, usually attracts about 5,000 visitors each year to the orchard along Route 239.

“It’s the one weekend that Wapwallopen tips the globe,” Barb Smith said, quoting a friend who, during a previous Apple Festival, climbed to the Council Cup vantage point atop a nearby mountain and gazed at the people and cars below.

While the sampling of apple pies, apple cider and other fair fare is always part of the festival, the event also gives visitors a chance for plenty of hands-on experiences, said Smith, who has organized many of the activities.

The frying-pan toss, for example, set for 3:30 p.m. Sunday is a ladies’ competition during which women are invited to see how far they can throw a 12-pound iron skillet, often in the direction of their husbands or boyfriends. “Some of the men stand there and carry on,” Smith said, explaining how they goad/encourage the womenfolk.

The Jack ‘n Jill Cross Cut competition, set for 1 p.m. Sunday, gives coed teams a chance to see how quickly they can use a two-handled saw to cut a log. Don’t worry, Smith said, you do get a chance to practice beforehand. The cross cut competition for children, meanwhile, is planned for 11:30 a.m. Saturday while the competition for men is set for 3:30 p.m. Saturday.

Looking for more ways to get involved? Visitors are welcome to take a wooden implement and “stomp” cabbage to release its juices and start it on its way to becoming sauerkraut. They’re invited to taste freshly churned butter on a cracker. And, both the cloggers and square dancers who will demonstrate their fancy footwork can be expected to ask onlookers to join in the dance, Smith said.

Some activities, naturally, are only for visitors to watch. One of them is the springboard exhibition at 11:15 a.m. and 3:15 p.m. Saturday. Based on an old-time lumberjack activity, springboarding involves cutting a notch in a tree, inserting a thin piece of wood and stepping onto it so you can reach higher and cut another notch until you reach the top.

But visitors are welcome to form teams and try their hands at “corn shocking,” Smith said. Not to be confused with shucking or shelling corn, this involves arranging bundles in a picturesque manner that originated as a way for the corn to dry.

Just for children,feed-sack races are planned for 3 p.m. Sunday, and a “Who Wants to Be A Farmer?” contest is set for 2:30 p.m. Saturday. The farmer contest involves seeing how fast you can peel corn, collect eggs, plant tomatoes, toss hay and milk a cow, Smith said.

A real cow?

No, Smith said. The “udder” is a rubber glove with holes punched in it.

The prize for winning any of the contests is an apple dumpling or apple pie, Smith said.

But even if you don’t win a contest, there will be plenty of apples and apple products to purchase.

“We made about 1,600 apple dumplings,” church volunteer Carol Peters of Hobbie said, reflecting on “three weeks of work, with quite a few men helping.”

All of the fruit they used came from the orchard, which for many years was a family farm, Ruth Heller said. Then her husband’s father, Hoyt Heller, began to plant apple trees on the acreage in 1919.

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