Leaves of gold: Locals discover Columbus Day payoff
By KEVIN O’CONNOR
CORRESPONDENT | October 14,2013
Kevin O’Connor Photo
Some 90 vendors sell seasonal crafts at the 43rd annual Newfane Heritage Festival this Columbus Day weekend.
Tourists who flocked to the 43rd annual Newfane Heritage Festival this Columbus Day weekend admired an overhead fall canopy of red, yellow and orange.
Townspeople appreciated something else: Raking up bushels of green.
The 90-vendor food and crafts festival — attracting an estimated 10,000 people to a community of 1,726 — showcases more than color on the local common. Since 1971, it also has served as the largest individual fundraiser for its sponsor, the Newfane Congregational Church.
“We make roughly $30,000,” volunteer Carleen Pelsue said.
“That’s roughly 25 percent of our budget for the year,” fellow helper Rick Wilson added.
Perhaps that’s why the festival — named one of the Philadelphia Inquirer’s “10 for the Road” events — had plenty of competition up and down tourist-traveled highways throughout southern Vermont.
In neighboring Dummerston, volunteers at that town’s Congregational Church filled 1,500 tins for Sunday’s 44th annual Apple Pie Festival, which doubled if not tripled the usual population of 1,864. Members spent weeks making and baking the pies, only to watch them sell out in hours. The payoff: Enough funds to cover 20 percent of the fellowship’s annual budget.
Down the road, the nonprofit Scott Farm took advantage of the crowds to hold an Heirloom Apple Tasting Day, featuring many of its 90 locally grown varieties — from Roxbury Russet to Belle de Boskoop to Winter Banana and Hidden Rose — as well as other fruits including gooseberries, nectarines and quince.
In nearby Halifax, population 728, the Honora Winery and Vineyard hosted its fifth annual Grape Stomp, bringing together farmers, artisans, banjo and washboard musicians and high-stepping redheads vying for $100 in a Lucille Ball look-alike contest.
Back in Newfane, traffic along the central Route 30 was backed up a mile from the center of town as motorists searched for parking or stopped for a fire department coin drop.
“We could not do the outreach for charities we do if we didn’t have this money,” Pelsue said. As for the resulting congestion, she added: “Local people know how to get around it.”