Autumn makes grand entrance at the Fall Harvest Festival in Havre de Grace

September 26, 1993|By Adriane B. Miller | Adriane B. Miller,Contributing Writer

Andrew Wilson stands over a boiling vat of apple butter, dodging the spitting, bubbling contents and waving away bees as he stirs the apples and sugar with a long wooden ladle.

A wood fire beneath the 32-gallon caldron makes this hot work, even on a cool morning. Now and then the heat sends the vat's contents exploding out the top and onto Andrew's arms, hands and unshod feet. Bees and yellow jackets, attracted by the promise of something sweet, buzz and swarm around him.

For Andrew, a ninth-grader and senior patrol leader with Boy Scout Troop 235 from Churchville, such hazards are all in a day's work. He and about 100 other volunteers are spending the weekend toting apples, stirring apple butter, stacking pumpkins, leading ponies, directing cars, and dishing up food for visitors to the seventh annual Steppingstone Museum Fall Harvest Festival Havre de Grace.

It's all to help the private, nonprofit museum raise money for operations and to give visitors a taste of life on the farm in the 19th century. Steppingstone has an agreement with the Maryland Park Service to operate the museum on state land. But it receives no operating money from the state.

The Fall Harvest Festival, which ends its two-day run today at the museum in Susquehanna State Park, is the result of "a massive volunteer effort," said Linda Noll, executive director of the museum and its one paid employee.

Visitors may take part in events such as scarecrow stuffing, apple-butter making, pumpkin painting, apple bobbing, hayrides, pony rides and cider pressing.

Bluegrass musicians Lefty Howard and Hillwilly and the Susquehanna Swingers square dancers will perform this afternoon. Storyteller Trudy DeForest will entertain children and adults with her tales, also during the afternoon.

Atlantic Caterers of Baltimore began early yesterday cooking about 800 pounds of pit beef, which will be sold all day. Hot dogs, crab cakes, french fries, ice cream, funnel cakes, lemonade, cider and home-baked goodies are also on sale.

About 30 crafters have set up booths at the festival and will be demonstrating and selling their crafts.

Admission is $4 for adults. Children under 12 and museum members are admitted for free. Craft booths open today at 10 a.m. and museum activities begin at noon. The festival ends at 5 p.m.

The Fall Harvest Festival is the museum's biggest event of the year. The crowd was light yesterday morning, with the threat of rain in the air. But Ms. Noll said as long as the rain held off, as many as 3,000 to 4,000 visitors might attend both days of the festival.

"Our purpose is to get everyone in the fall spirit," Ms. Noll said. With the scent of apples in the cool air and the buzz of energy from so many volunteers, the autumn atmosphere is hard to ignore.

So are the bees. Swarming over craft booths, in the visitor center and near the lemonade stand, bees prompted several volunteers early yesterday morning to carry bee sticks to neutralize possible stings.

Bees didn't seem to bother visitors like Molly Brumbley of Oxford, Pa., and her daughter, Nichole, though. "Rather than sit around today we decided to come out here and see the museum and the crafts," Ms. Brumbley said.

Kurtis LeMaire and his sisters, April and Montana, grade-school children from Rising Sun, stood fascinated as they watched Donald Shuster demonstrate how to make a bottle out of a lump of clay on his pottery wheel. Some of Mr. Shuster's fired and painted pottery sat in the booth next to the wheel.

"This is what I want to do," said Kurtis, decisively, as Mr. Shuster transformed the clay into a bottle.

In another booth, Barb Phelps sat at a spinning wheel, converting a clump of wool into string, which she would later sell in a skein or use to knit mittens or a hat. Ms. Phelps also dyes her own wool. Just about the only thing she doesn't do in the process is raise and shear the sheep.

Ms. Phelps, Mr. Shuster and the other crafters volunteered to demonstrate their crafts at the Harvest Festival to lend a measure of authenticity to its events.

The museum is actually several historic buildings perched above the Susquehanna River, the site of a working farm until the 1950s. The original stone farmhouse on the property dates back to the 1770s.

Beside the farmhouse, the buildings consist of blacksmith, timber, carpenter, cooper, dairy, and farm and garden tool shops; a large barn; a weaving room; and canning house. All of the buildings are maintained to resemble those of a working farm during the period from 1880 to 1920.

"Our buildings reflect rural life at the turn of the century," Ms. Noll said.

The museum, open from May to October, has several functions during the year in addition to the Fall Harvest Festival, including a Christmas Open House in December, May Day Festival and Children's Game Day in July.

Information: (410) 939-2299.

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