MOUNT JACKSON – Thirty vendors set up shop at the annual Mount Jackson Apple Harvest Festival on Saturday, selling everything from handcrafted birdhouses to scarves to locally written works of fiction. And, of course, lots and lots of apple butter.
One of the apple butter vendors, Mount Cavalry Lutheran Church, has participated since the first Harvest Festival. Supplied with cider, sugar, 15 bushels of apples, jars and lids from parishioners, church volunteers cooked apple butter in two 40-gallon copper kettles the morning of the festival.
Heather Diehl, the pastor’s wife who organizes the annual apple butter cooking, said the “camaraderie and fellowship” of the event keeps the church coming back year after year. That, and the fact that they have never failed to sell their entire inventory.
Other vendors didn’t meet as much success.
“There seemed to be a lot of people last year, but not as many this year,” said Frank Zirkle, owner of Frank’s BBQ in Woodstock. “I don’t know why.”
However, Zirkle does plan to return next year, because of the low entrance fee and his continuing status as the festival’s exclusive barbecue vendor.
To Mount Jackson’s mayor, J. G. “Bucky” Miller, after speaking with vendors across the festival, it evens out.
“Some of them said, ‘My God … I’m about sold out,’” Miller said. “Some others have said, ‘Hey, I’m getting some people in, I’m selling some stuff. I’ve had worse shows, I’ve had better. But I plan on coming back.’”
This was the second Harvest Festival since the town took over the event from the Mount Jackson Festival Foundation, a transfer that didn’t come without changes. The town added a kickoff event the night before the festival, prioritized crafters over food venues and introduced a beer garden on the south side.
“The big joke was, ‘You can’t have beer in Mount Jackson,’” Miller said. “‘No one drinks on Main Street.’ You know, the old taboo.”
Miller personally worked with many of the vendors. He was particularly touched by an interaction with the festival’s blacksmith, who requested a last-minute change to his assigned space.
“He comes up to me last night and he says, ‘Please, can I change my spot?’” Miller said. “He goes, ‘I’m worried about the safety of the people. Because I want to be able to forge the steel, do my thing, and where I’m at I would like to be able to have it so that I don’t have to worry about safety with people coming around and seeing.’
“You can’t ask for anything better than somebody who’s thinking about that instead of the product that they brought,” Miller said.