From the Darlington Apple Festival:
History of the Darlington Apple Festival
The Apple Festival has always been a celebration of the character and pride of the Darlington Community. Even before the idea was first conceived, Darlington was the home of community-spirited people who responded to the needs of its schools, churches and citizens. Then, in 1986, three well-intended Darlington locals with an entrepreneurial bent, Art Johnson, June Griffith and Tommy McCurry thought up the Applefest. In the years before the first Applefest, the Darlington United Methodist Church held a spring strawberry festival as a fundraiser and time to bring good friends together. They eventually morphed the spring strawberry event to a fall apple event. Meanwhile, the Darlington Country Store was holding a fall festival. It seemed like a great idea to combine the two events into one glorious day.
The first exploratory meeting was held in the winter of 1986. Not only was the idea of a community apple festival enthusiastically received, but many ideas for projects were initiated. Other local churches and non-profits were invited to join in. Scheduled for the first Saturday in October in “downtown Darlington”, about a thousand visitors showed up. There was an applesauce eating contest, an “Apple Bingo”, and lots of good pie-a-la-mode to eat. A string of light bulbs was set up in the evening and there was square dancing in the church parking lot.
Each year the festival has grown with new attractions and new organizations joining in. It is now the largest one-day event in Harford County, drawing an average of 50,000 visitors per year for the past several years. Still, it is organized by an “all volunteer” group of individuals. There is no overhead, no office space, and no paid staff. The Darlington Apple Festival is incorporated as a non-profit and only hopes to break even each year. The major expenses are insurance, transportation, sanitation and security. It operates as an annual fund raising venue for the organizations and individuals that make up the food, craft and farm vendors.
How important is the Darlington Apple Festival to the local economy? We asked the churches and non-profit organizations for which the Apple Festival was originally designed. We learned that it has become a line item in their budgets and accounts for up to 50% of that budget. For these organizations, the money that comes in flows right back out into the community. The school PTA counts on this money to supplement services to the children. Local churches count on the revenue to support a wide variety of outreach and service that would otherwise not be affordable. Local organizations, such as the Lion’s Club, report that they would not be able to support the community as much as they do without the Apple Festival income.
Deer Creek Harmony Church became a participant in 1988 when it started selling it’s famous chili made from a “secret” recipe. They dubbed it “Heavenly Chili.” The next year they added “Divine Applecake”, also from a divinely inspired secret recipe.
Everyone who lives here has a story to tell about the Apple Festival. One year, as a local fundraiser for the Tommy Kelly Fund, two apple pies made from a prize winning recipe were raffled off. When everyone else sold out, the raffle tickets sold like hot cakes! Everyone wants a Darlington Apple Festival pie!
“It’s like going back 70 or 80 years in time. The people care about each other in Darlington and that comes out in the fair,” said Jackie Barduca, former Chair. Jim Calcutt, who chaired the committee for over a decade, echoes these sentiments. He says the festival’s popularity has allowed the town’s charities and churches to raise much needed funds for their budgets for the year. Now, Elaine Calderon oversees the event. She is very appreciative of the residents of Darlington, especially those who allow the use of their property on festival day. She says, “This truly is a community event put on by a volunteer committee with the assistance of the WHOLE community.” It could not happen without everyone’s help and patience!
The Village of Darlington is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a documented stop on the Underground Railroad.
Community churches and local groups will always be the foundation of the Apple Festival. We are proud of our community and our rural values. Through it all, the Apple Festival has maintained a guiding philosophy of a small, town rural festival reflecting wholesome, family oriented values. We hope the Darlington community will become part of your life at least one day each year, the first Saturday in October.
This article is an amalgam of articles written, over the years, by June Griffith, Gwyn Howard, Jane Howe and various Aegis reporters. June passed away three years ago on October 1, 2008. We are certain that she does her best to send good weather from her place in the clouds.
BUY LOCAL – SUPPORT LOCAL FARMS AND FARMERS
Have you heard the word “locavore”? It was the “Word of the Year” several years ago when The New Oxford American Dictionary chose it for addition to their lexicon. The locavore movement grew out of the “Slow Food” movement of the mid 1980s. People worldwide were getting fed up, quite literally, with calorie laden fast food and the fast life that created it. Where did the food come from? How was it prepared? Were we losing our local food traditions and, more importantly, our family time around the dinner table? The Slow Food organization believes that “the food we eat should taste good; that it should be produced in a clean way that does not harm the environment, animal welfare, or our health; and that food producers should receive fair compensation for their work.”
As the slow food movement grew, the locavore movement was born. The new word was coined several years ago in the San Francisco area and the trend has spread nation wide. The idea is to purchase locally grown, seasonal produce that can be prepared without extra preservatives. It is an answer to global corporate farming models that are still wiping out family farms. A “locavore” is someone who eats food which is grown or produced within a certain radius of 50 to 100 miles. Did you know that the food we buy in large grocery chains has traveled an average of 1,500 miles and was picked, on average, 4-7 days before it was shipped? According to the Locavore website, the globalization of the food supply has had serious consequences on the environment, our health, our communities and our taste buds!
Locally grown, fresh food can be consumed almost immediately after harvest. This means it can be picked closer to peak maturity when flavor is at the best quality and nutritional value is optimized. The need for chemical preservatives and/or irradiation is eliminated.
The locavore movement is also having an impact on local land use policies where farm land is under pressure for development. As more people demand sustainable agriculture, which minimizes risks to the environment, the local economy is strengthened by protecting small farms, local jobs and local shops.
Here in Harford County, anyone can go to the website, www.harfordfarms.com, to get information about our local farms. Several years ago, Harford County was the first in the State of Maryland to introduce a website to aid the agricultural community in marketing products and services. The new website makes it even easier for farmers and consumers alike. The website includes a list of Harford County farms and related businesses. Information on fruits, vegetables, dairy products such as cheese and ice cream, beef, pork, lamb, poultry, eggs, even wine can be found in a user friendly format at the touch of a button. Want to pick your own bushel of apples? Need a holiday tree? Go to www.harfordfarms.com and support a local grower.
Besides farmer’s markets and pick your own destinations, you can also find detailed information about all the CSAs in Harford County. There are eight Community Supported Agriculture sites listed on the website. A CSA is a way to buy a share of produce direct and fresh from the grower during the growing season.
Of course, there is no substitute for picking a ripe, juicy tomato from a vine growing in your own back yard. In fact, you don’t even need a yard. All you need is a big container. If you are thinking about planting a food garden and don’t know where to begin, you can get all the information you need from Harford County Master Gardeners and the Cooperative Extension Service of the University of Maryland. The website, www.mastergardener.umd.edu, is chock full of free current information to get you started. Type “Harford County” into the search box to find out about what is happening right here or call the Harford County office at 410-638-3255 to ask for expert advice. “Grow it, Eat it” classes are offered around the county to teach you what you need to know to grow some of your own food.
Whether you buy local produce, plant a garden or just begin to think about what the locavore movement is all about, the idea is to make the environment we all live in healthy and sustainable not only for ourselves, but for our children.