By Sandy Scarmack
Herald Staff Writer
Chances are, everyone’s got a favorite memory of the Hartford Apple Festival and Mary D’Urso would bet it has something to do with the smells of baking ham, mashed potatoes and freshly baked apple pies.
Or, it could have been the young contestants, all vying for the coveted title of festival queen, said D’Urso, one of the frestival organizers, who likened the autumn fair to a “homecoming of sorts.”
This year marks the 50th anniversary of a festival that got started back in 1964 because a township trustee, Ralph Stewart, thought the township “ought to do something to draw attention to the apple capital,” said Helen Burns, vice president of the Hartford Apple Festival committee.
Hartford Orchards wasn’t originally connected to the fair, Burns said, but later got involved. Most people, she said, are familiar with Hartford because of the Hartford Apple Orchards.
Set for the weekend of Sept. 21, organizers have tried to bring back some of the flair that made the gathering fun, including craft shows, homemade apple dumplings, rides, parades and a cruise-in.
Sadly, for some, the frog-jumping contest won’t likely make a comeback, nor will the greased pig contest, though both brought tons of laughs for those who participated in the early games.
“I can remember one little boy who rented this monster bullfrog for 50 cents, and he kept it in the glass gallon jar and it jumped all morning. And when he put it out for the race, it wouldn’t move. He was so disappointed,” Burns said.
“And another little girl was holding a frog and she decided she wanted an apple dumpling. So she put the frog in her mother’s purse. Well, when her mom reached in her purse, the whole thing went flying,” she said.
“And well, you can imagine trying to catch a pig that was greased with Crisco,” Burns said.
While some of the nostalgia that attendees may remember is gone, including the old school building, Burns is still convinced the festival is going strong after 50 years.
“Well, we used to do a lot more when we were younger, she said, but we’ve still got plenty to keep things going,” she said.
“It’s a little bit of Mayberry here. The people are friendly and it’s a bit like being down on the farm,” D’urso said.
“We’re just so pleased we’ve reached the 50 milestone. We get such a huge turnout for the parade. It’s literally three and four people deep. A lot of people love this festival,” she said.
Admission to the three-day festival is free and organizers hope the food and the parade will continue to draw visitors from Erie, Pittsburgh and Cleveland as it has in years past.
Located at state routes 7 and 305, the festival kicks off Friday night, Sept. 20.
Anyone who wants to participate in the parade can contact Susan Burns at 330-240-2724 to register.