The sun smiled down on Huguenot Street last Saturday, with temperatures in the comfortable low 70s, as the New Paltz Reformed Church’s annual harvest-time festival, Applestock, made a modestly triumphant return. “Everyone’s grateful to be back outside and back together,” said Karyn Morehouse, who presided over the raffle and tee-shirt tent.
The longtime volunteer explained that, due to the pandemic in 2020, the Church had hosted a smaller-scale, socially distanced Fall Bakery and Market in place of Applestock, featuring curbside pickup of pies that had to be preordered. And indeed, the sale of gorgeous, fragrant homemade apple pies – using donated apples and volunteer labor – is the fundraising event’s major draw. While this year’s turnout was “slower than most years,” Morehouse pointed out that even when things are more normal, “A lot of people come just for the pie.”
The modified version of Applestock for 2021 kept the mechanism for preordering, but also featured a tent where pies could be purchased on impulse. Of 192 total pies that had been baked for the occasion, only about 20 were left by midafternoon. Another popular item, the apple fritters cooked up fresh by volunteers from the Church’s youth program and sold in batches of half a dozen, was completely sold out and their tent dismantled by 3 p.m.
Live music on the Church’s front porch went on beyond the street festival’s official closing time, however, in order to allow the last local band, OFFBeat, to perform a full set following some technical difficulties during setup. Many attendees lingered, clapping enthusiastically as this tight quintet of New Paltz High School students belted out a selection of heavy metal numbers, two songs by Cream for the Boomers in the audience and one original, titled “Quarantine.” Also performing earlier in the day were Two for the Road, That Duo and Me and My Ex.
In the parking lot behind the Church, a food tent was set up. In addition to the usual fair selections such as burgers and hotdogs, visitors could purchase a celestial soup of puréed butternut squash, thick as mousse, with slivers of apple stirred in. “It’s the best. I wonder if they have a recipe they’d give out,” said one attendee who was enjoying a bowl of the soup.
Along both sides of Huguenot Street were arrayed vendor booths, enticing passersby with such wares as handmade jewelry, soaps and candles, knitwear made from soft alpaca wool, wooden birdhouses, skin-care products, pickles and cookies. One table featured an array of handicrafts imported from Africa, whose sale helped support the Church’s ongoing mission efforts in Uganda.
Judy Elliot, a mainstay at this festival for about 20 years, was back to sell her Autumn Whimsy Hudson Valley Jam and Jelly line. Her biggest seller, she said, is Rose Red, a raspberry/strawberry combo. But she also offered a rarer item, “a jam that I don’t think anyone else carries,” called Wild Autumn Berry. It’s made from the fruits of autumn olive, whose flavor Elliot compared to peaches, although her recipe adds cloves and cinnamon, evoking apple butter.
Autumn olive grows wild in many places – including a grove across the street from where Elliot lives – and was often planted as a hedge before gardeners became more wary of its propensity to be invasive. But the fruit contains “17 times the lycopene in a tomato,” she noted. “It’s great for you, it grows easily; I can’t see what’s so bad about it. Cornell says it’s supposed to be a cancer preventative.”
Surveying the low-key Applestock crowd and comparing the turnout to past years, Elliot observed, “This year is not as big; but the weather is just so gorgeous for the first time back post-COVID. It’s great to be back.”