Top billing for ice cream, strawberries


May 31, 2002|By Betsy Diehl | Betsy Diehl,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

WHAT DO you get when you combine 20 gallons of fresh milk with 80 cans of evaporated milk, 25 dozen eggs, 35 pounds of sugar, a jug of vanilla extract and a host of other ingredients?

You get plenty of homemade ice cream to dollop on 1,000 fresh-baked biscuits and a truckload of ripe berries for tomorrow's Strawberry Festival at United Methodist Church of Savage.

Last week, about two dozen parishioners spent more than three hours stirring, scraping, mixing and pouring what would become 50 gallons of fresh vanilla ice cream - give or take a taster's sample.

"At the end, we get to taste it. That's the best part," said Connie North, who, along with her sister, Agnes Riley, has been helping with Strawberry Festival preparations for about 40 years.

"We usually don't let them taste it until the end," said Riley, 77. "Otherwise, they wouldn't get any work done!"

The Strawberry Festival has been held the same weekend as Savage Fest in recent years, but the church fund-raiser predates the community fair by several decades.

"I've been a member 50 years, and they were doing it when I joined," Riley said.

"It started with a little bitty Strawberry Festival on the front lawn," recalled North, 68. "It was just a small thing outside, and we got to know a lot of new people."

There are no records that pinpoint the exact origins of the festival, but church officials note the recollections of Alice and Myrtle Phelps. According to the sisters, church member Bessie Bell came up with the idea in 1943, shortly after the two Methodist churches in Savage united.

The ice cream used to be hand-cranked, but this year all 10 ice cream makers were electric. "You can't get too many people who like to crank it," Riley said. "They've gotten spoiled with these electrical things."

The process consists of the ice cream makers and, well, the ice cream makers. While the electrical variety whirred away on the church parking lot, a crew of women and girls was in the spotless kitchen, making the mixture and transferring the finished product to containers.

No one acknowledged knowing the whole recipe, and repeated requests were referred to Jeannette Vollmerhausen, who makes part of the recipe in advance - alone. "Jeannette does that while we're at work," North said.

"It's a church recipe," Vollmerhausen explained while mixing and pouring. "It's not a secret, but we're not going to give it out."

In these times of Ben and Jerry's, why not just buy the stuff?

"Homemade tastes better," said Julie Renfro, who was on hand to monitor the outdoor ice cream makers with her husband, Dan, and daughters Beth, 14, and Emily, 2. "It's fun. People talk and visit while they're doing it."

The United Methodist Church of Savage Strawberry Festival will be held from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the church, 9050 Baltimore St. In addition to strawberry shortcake and homemade ice cream, church volunteers will sell beef barbecue, homemade chicken salad, hot dogs, baked beans and other refreshments.

Savage Fest

Folks in Savage and surrounding communities are gearing up for the 13th Savage Fest tomorrow and Sunday on the common grounds of Carroll Baldwin Hall, at Baltimore and Foundry streets.

The festivities begin tomorrow morning at 10, with a parade originating at Bollman Bridge Elementary School and heading down Savage-Guilford Road to the festival grounds.

Besides food, crafts, games and prizes, live musical entertainment and scheduled performances by the Kangaroo Kids Precision Jump Rope Team, the Patuxent Valley Middle School Step Team and medieval re-enactments by the Savage Players are planned.

An Antique Car and Hot Rod show will be held Sunday, beginning at noon.

Fest hours are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. tomorrow and noon to 5:30 p.m. Sunday.

Parting words

About this time each year, Rhonda Smith of Savage takes on a temporary persona.

"I become the Strawberry Mobile," Smith said. Her driveway has served as the delivery point for the 450 pounds of strawberries for the Strawberry Festival for the past nine years.

"We used to go and pick them," Smith said, noting that back then they needed only 100 pounds of fruit. But the quest for fresh local produce backfired nine years ago, when she and others arrived at a nearby farm to pick berries days before the festival.

"The guy said, `Well, I don't have any. They're not ready yet,'" she recalled.

The strawberries have been delivered to Smith's driveway by a produce supplier ever since.

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