Weatherwise, the Saturday of Columbus Day weekend wasn’t particularly promising for outdoor activities. Rain ranging in texture from a prickle to a splatter came and went all afternoon. But after more than a quarter-century of happening annually, the apple festival at the New Paltz Reformed Church — renamed Applestock for the past three years, according to volunteer Sue Van Alst — has perfected the art of luring in those in the know, regardless of what the skies are up to. “We had a pretty steady stream of people, in spite of a drizzly start,” Van Alst reported.
“People come rain or shine for the pies,” agreed Joe Eriole, who was introducing the bands playing on the church’s front porch and, together with the pastor’s son, Kyle Mast, helping them with their sound setup. “And the kids from the church make fritters.”
Sales of hot apple fritters cooked up by members of the Youth Fellowship generate funding dedicated to that group’s activities, Van Alst explained. Pie sales, auction and raffle income and vendor fees from the event go toward a broad menu of church projects, including an ongoing mission in Uganda to provide a medical clinic, housing, education and entrepreneurial support to the children and widows of men who have died in that country’s HIV/AIDS epidemic. The income from festivals in autumns past enabled New Paltz Reformed to become a “green church”: “We went solar last year.”
But the single costliest service that this congregation provides to the community is the Wullschleger Education Building, used regularly for meeting space by scouts, addiction support groups and other local not-for-profit organizations and social service programs. The structure’s upkeep and utilities are largely underwritten by Applestock, according to event coordinator Kate Weston. “The money we raise goes back into building use, so we can offer it at a reduced or free rate,” she explained.
Karyn Morehouse was in charge of the silent auction and raffle booth. “We got busy around midday,” she reported in the late afternoon, as the winners were about to be announced. “When it starts to drizzle, people get in, get their pies and get out.”
Van Alst is the “Pie Lady,” responsible for organizing the army of volunteer bakers, peelers and slicers who converge in the church basement the night preceding Applestock. “We made, downstairs last night, 177 pies that we counted. Plus, we had people make pies at home and bring them. We had probably 200 of them altogether,” she said. Most of the pies on offer were standard-issue two-crust apple, made with thin-sliced Empire apples donated by Dressel Farms, but apple crumb and pumpkin pies were also available.
Vendors of handmade clothing, knitwear, beaded jewelry, macramé, soaps, jams, honey, flavored oils, pickles, pottery, wooden ornaments, carved and painted gourd birdhouses, Ugandan crafts and more had their booths arrayed along Huguenot Street. At long tables in the rear of the church parking lot, fairgoers bought hot dogs, burgers, chili and coffee to enjoy while listening and dancing to the bands that played all afternoon on two stages. The musical lineup — all local — included the Woodstock Brass Quintet, Jennifer Anne Country, Jordan Stoner, Cherished Memories Doo-Wop, Wind & Stone, Club Swing, Red Neckromancer, New Paltz Rock and Blue Plate Special.
To the south side of the church grounds, a large tent was set up to celebrate the fizzy side of apples, where a $10 fee brought visitors unlimited tastings of hard cider from Kettleborough, Awestruck, Naked Flock and Ninepin. The Thousand Islands Winery sold wine and sangria by the glass, and Twin Fork Beer from Riverhead, on Long Island, provided microbrews both on tap and in cans.
While the grownups tippled, youngsters were kept plenty busy at the Kids’ Corral, with free activities orchestrated by Mountain Laurel School director Judy Jaeckel. Teachers from the school gave two live performances of a puppet show, “Mashenka and the Bear.” There were games and hands-on craft tables, and even a hand-cranked machine where children could weave their own colorful yarn jumprope to take home. Eighth-graders from Mountain Laurel helped supervise the kids’ activities, as part of their community service requirement for school. Across the street, near the Education Building, kids could take pony rides courtesy of the Esopus-based therapy-riding organization Horses for a Change.
All in all, Applestock 2018 was a low-key demonstration of community togetherness, fueled by volunteerism, music and fun – and an appetite for apple treats. It takes more than a little rain to dampen that harvest.