A real peach: Shepherdstown Peach Festival celebrates summer’s sweetest fruit
SHEPHERDSTOWN — Over fifteen years ago, New Street United Methodist Church held the town’s first Peach Festival on the second Saturday in August. Since that year, the festival has grown in popularity, crowding the church’s dining hall with eager peach lovers of all ages.
Margaret Rose Smith and Nancy Cleaver, both of Shepherdstown, coordinated the community event, which featured 59 peach pies, 14 peach cobblers and 25 gallons of peach ice cream, along with pound cake with peaches, chicken salad sandwiches, hot dogs, country ham sandwiches, steamers, Coney Island hot dogs and chocolate sundaes.
“We’ve tried to make it all the same,” Smith said. “We don’t farm it out to people — that way we know we use the same recipe every year. The recipes for peach ice cream and peach pie were chosen a long time ago, by one of our members. The peach crisp recipe is an original that I made up.”
As Smith organized the orders in the kitchen, she thought back to when the festival first started.
“I remember one of the men told us, when we decided to do this, “Nobody will show up,” Smith said, shaking her head. “He was wrong. We’ve made a lot of money with this.”
While in previous years the festival proceeds have helped the church maintain their building, a portion of this year’s proceeds will be used to benefit Shepherd University students, according to Smith.
“We are helping ourselves, but also providing something that the community looks forward to,” Smith said of the festival. “Some of the proceeds will go to renovations, but we’re planning to start a food bank for Shepherd students with the rest of the money. We already provide free dinners to Shepherd University students once a month.”
For long-time volunteer Nancy Cleaver, of Shepherdstown, preparations for the festival began on Tuesday.
“I’ve been doing this since day one,” Cleaver said, as she dished out pieces of pie. “I’m involved in almost all of it — I have made the pies, the ice cream. I’m totally involved, and I enjoy all of it. I recognize the importance of reaching out to the community and making a little profit off of it.”
For Shepherdstown resident John Christman, attending the festival has become a yearly tradition.
“I come here for the country ham, cause no one else in my family will eat country ham,” Christman said. “The country ham is great — nothing like it.
“You’ve got to get the peach pie! My mom, Frances, used to bake me a peach pie every year, but she’s not here anymore, so I come here to get it. She would always have peaches picked and delivered to her house and bake a pie for me — I’d have it eaten in a day,” Christman said, with a smile. “This isn’t like my mom’s pie, but when mom’s not here, this is where I get it.”