BERKELEY SPRINGS — The 45th annual Berkeley Springs Apple Butter Festival kicked off in high gear Saturday.
The streets and sidewalks were packed as visitors delighted in the sounds of music from the bandstand, looked at booth after booth of handmade crafts, and checked out the apple butter being made in a large pot on the square. Another day’s worth of family-friendly games and contests, music, country food, arts and crafts ran through Sunday.
“I think the parade was the largest I’ve ever seen,” said Town of Bath Council member Rose Jackson of the kick-off Take Me Home Country Roads Parade Saturday morning.
Jackson also said the crowd of visitors was a large one, likely buoyed by the nice weather and lack of rain. It’s one of the longest-running festivals in the state, and organizers say it brings tens of thousands in attendance.
The scents of bubbling cauldrons of apple butter and wood smoke filled the streets. Apple Butter was available for purchase while still hot right out of the kettle.
One northern Virginia group of visitors enjoyed their first Apple Butter Festival. They’ve been to Berkeley Springs several times, but not during the fall event. They were pleasantly surprised the apple butter was being made in front of their eyes at Pap Jake’s tent.
“Originally we came from China,” said Elsa Ma, “but we’ve been in the states over 30 years. It was very interesting and exciting to stir the apple butter. We all assume it’s manufactured by machines. So, this is very authentic. I like the way it’s done so traditionally because nowadays you don’t see the traditional, genuine things that much. We’re enjoying ourselves. It’s perfect.”
Traditional and contemporary arts and crafts filled Berkeley Springs State Park and tent spaces all over town during the festival.
Kristy Omps bought novelty hat and cape sets made especially for her boys by “Aunt Jenny” Jennifer Fretz.
“This is our favorite booth,” Omps said. “We come every year, and this year she made special things for us, their favorite characters.”
Fretz sells handmade crochet scarves, novelty hats and more as Aunt Jenny. She started with hats, then branched out with scarves, shawls, and headbands.
“I have 17 nieces and nephews,” said Fretz. “I started making the hats for them, and my family encouraged me to start selling them. This is my hometown and where I grew up. This was the first place we thought of to try selling. I’ve got two years’ worth of stuff.”
Vintage Market is a new addition with nearly 200 vendors. Vintage Market is a pickers’ paradise filled with antiques and collectibles. A farmer’s market section also offered locally grown and regional produce.
Blues Master Billy Thompson and his band played Saturday, as did The Carpenter Ants — one of West Virginia’s longest lasting bands and frequent performers on the internationally renowned Mountain Stage radio show. All Grassed Up also played Saturday. Mary Ashby and High Octane performed Sunday.
For more information log onto www.berkeleysprings.com/festivals/apple-butter-festival. Follow on Facebook at Apple Butter Festival WV. Next year’s festival is Oct. 5-6.