Photos by Lauren Thomas
As people ambled through jewelry, trinkets and farm market stands, Cheryl Alloway toiled on something sweet. Alloway stood in front of a brazier, stirring the contents of a cauldron slowly with a humongous wooden ladle, while the smoke from the wood fire wafted outward onto the grounds of the New Paltz Reformed Church on Huguenot Street.
In that big kettle, a thick, golden-orange sauce of super-sweetened fruit coagulated into homemade apple butter. Cooking it the old-fashioned way — over a campfire — takes a lot of time. At 3 p.m., she’d been stirring the mixture for more than six hours and it still wasn’t totally ready.
“You just constantly stir it,” she explained. “It has a very different flavor because the smoke adds a flavor — a depth to it.”
All along Historic Huguenot Street and throughout the church grounds, people celebrated everything apple as part of the 24th annual New Paltz Apple Festival.
Church volunteers sold all of the approximately 170 apple pies made for the event. Even after the pies had vanished, youth choir volunteers pumped out apple fritters all day.
Youngsters from the Reformed Church sell those apple fritters as part of a special fundraiser, according to Kyle Pogemiller, the youth choir director.
“We do a big trip to Ocean Grove, NJ each year,” Pogemiller said. Proceeds from the fritters fund the field trip.
Altogether, the Reformed Church went through 700 pounds of apples last weekend – donated by local orchard Dressel Farms.
As the Apple Festival chairwoman, Lisa Curtis helped organize the event, which has become an institution locally and also serves as a fundraiser for the church. Busy but still smiling, she was happy with the turnout.
“It’s really something that’s a really good family fun day,” Curtis said. “We feel that this is a gift back to the town.”
She added: “The most wonderful thing about it is that everyone gets involved. We had octogenarians peeling apples in here to help make pies.”
Historic Huguenot Street also played a part in Apple Fest 2013. They held their used book sale on the lawn near DuBois Fort to help support their Schoonmaker Research Library. They also gave special tours of the 1721 Abe Hasbrouck Museum.
For people unfamiliar with Huguenot Street — which for first-time visitors seems to be a fully cordoned off historical district — it doesn’t always click that New Paltz Reformed Church is a functional, active church. Curtis joked that some visitors assume it’s one of the historical sites.
So for the church, Apple Fest is also a chance to show off what their faith community has to offer, she said.
Next year will mark a momentous year for Apple Fest — its 25th year. Curtis didn’t want to give too much away, but said that church volunteers are planning something big for 2014.
To learn more about the church and its history, head to https://reformedchurchofnewpaltz.org/home.