“We’re back with a vengeance!” said New Paltz Reformed Church parishioner and longtime volunteer Karyn Morehouse last Saturday as she managed the raffle booth at Applestock. After a pandemic hiatus in the form of a socially distanced Fall Bakery and Market in 2020, the Church’s traditional apple festival returned on a modest scale in 2021. But this year, the celebration seemed pretty much back to normal, with crowds of locals and out-of-towners alike thronging the closed-off block of Huguenot Street on a beautiful early autumn day.
Craftspeople and other vendors had their stands set up along the curbside, while musicians – Hey Bub, Afternoon Delight and the Big Blue Big Band – played live on the Church’s broad front porch. Little kids got their faces painted and adults got henna designs on their hands at the Tipsy Turtle booth. On the south lawn, the Zeus Brewing Company and El Paso Winery dispensed alcoholic beverages that included apple/caramel sangría and an apple/berry red wine concoction.
A food tent behind the building sold hot dogs, burgers and chili (and chiliburgers), as well as excellent butternut-squash-and-apple soup that’s worth the trip in itself. If you arrived by noon, you could obtain some of the legendary apple fritters cooked up by the Reformed Church’s Youth Group. “Anyone who came after that was very disappointed,” Morehouse noted.
The big draw of this annual event is indisputably the apple desserts. Online preordering of pies for pickup on the day-of was instituted in 2020, as a modification to make the show go on in spite of COVID, and that method has now become standard operating procedure. You might still be able to get a pie if you showed up without reserving one, but nothing was guaranteed for late arrivals.
A grand total of 204 pies changed hands on Saturday: 108 double-crust apple pies, 66 Dutch apple with crumb crust and 30 pumpkin. That was a significant increase from 2021’s sales, according to Linda Apuzzo, who took over the post of head pie-wrangler this year. “We started on Wednesday, when we made the dough. On Thursday we rolled the dough and peeled apples, and on Friday we did the pie assembly,” Apuzzo explained. With 56 pecks of MacIntosh apples donated by Dressel Farms, the peeling process continued into Friday.
All those apple cores and peelings had to be added to the compost piles that the Church maintains for its garden. Then came hours upon hours of baking. “The entire narthex last night had pies lining it from one end to the other, with an aisle down the middle,” she said.
While a member of the congregation, Apuzzo didn’t get much involved as a Church volunteer until two years ago, when she retired from her job teaching fifth grade in the Newburgh City School District. “This was the first year I oversaw the apple pies. It was the easiest thing to take over, because everybody knows their roles,” she said. “It was a well-oiled machine.”
Seasoned volunteers served as team captains for the various tasks, organized in three two-hour shifts each day. “It was a really beautiful thing. We had college students, retired seniors, moms who could stay home – all different ages of people in the kitchen at the same time.” Apuzzo singled out the Kappa Delta Phi sorority at SUNY New Paltz for special praise: Not only did the group send members to participate in all stages of piemaking, but they also helped with setup and breakdown on Saturday. Boy Scout Troop 172 in New Paltz also pitched in.
Apuzzo described the entire group process as “joyous and comforting,” and recommended that anyone looking to reconnect with a sense of community after two years of isolation consider becoming a volunteer, regardless of religious affiliation. “We have a really strong fellowship in this Church,” she said.