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Sweet as a peach: Shepherdstown Peach Festival continues to draw crowd, in spite of social distancing

By Staff | Aug 14, 2020

New Street United Methodist Church member Sharon Foster delivers a freshly baked peach pie to a customer parked by the church's courtyard on Saturday afternoon. Tabitha Johnston

SHEPHERDSTOWN — After a full day of baking crisps and pies out of freshly picked peaches in the Shepherdstown Volunteer Fire Department kitchen on Friday, New Street United Methodist Church’s members gathered together to host its annual Shepherdstown Peach Festival on Saturday.

Although the church chose to close its dining room to the public and offer only takeout options for this year’s festival, due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, its organizers still said it had a good turnout.

“We had about 110 preorders. We made a little more to sell than what was ordered, just in case,” said Margaret Rose Smith, who, with Nancy Cleaver, founded and organizes the event every year. “We baked 66 10-inch pies, 12 of which were baked to sell by the slice, and 19 mini pies.”

In addition to that, the church members made peach crisps, peach ice cream and vanilla ice cream, along with a variety of homemade sandwiches and drinks.

“In terms of volume, we [sold] close to what we normally would,” Smith said, mentioning the festival’s peaches were all locally grown at Twin Ridge Orchard in Shenandoah Junction. “We were impressed with how many orders we had. We heard that a lot of people were glad we kept with this tradition — we weren’t sure how the public would receive it, and we’re glad the public wanted to supported us.”

From right, Carole Feaster, of Shepherdstown, and Shirley Wiltshire, of Shepherdstown, package sandwiches for pickup in the New Street United Methodist Church kitchen on Saturday afternoon. Tabitha Johnston

All of the festival food and procedures were based on recommendations from the Jefferson County Health Department and the church’s governing authority, the Baltimore-Washington Conference of the United Methodist Church.

“It wasn’t too hard to incorporate the restrictions. I called the health department about our procedures, and they said, ‘It sounds like you have a good plan,'” Smith said, mentioning she and Nancy Cleaver both completed a food training program a few years ago with the health department, that helped prepare them for making the festival’s social distancing-minded changes.

The proceeds from this year’s sale will go toward renovating the church’s kitchen and dining room, according to Smith. While the pandemic will prevent these two rooms from being used much this year, for many years, it has served Shepherdstown as a community space.

“Our spaghetti dinners and pancake breakfasts are here. Our monthly dinners for Shepherd University students are here. But all of that’s up in the air right now,” Smith said, mentioning money from a previous church fundraiser was used to donate a freezer to Shepherd University’s food pantry for students.

“I’ve been helping out with [the festival] since they started it,” said Nancy Cleaver’s daughter, Barbara Cleaver, of Shepherdstown, at the end of the festival.

Peach pies and a pint of peach ice cream rest on a table in the New Street United Methodist Church dining hall, before being packaged for pickup on Saturday afternoon. Tabitha Johnston

Although she’s glad the festival was not canceled this year, she said she looks forward to next year’s event, which she hopes to its normal set-up in the church dining room.

“It’s fun to see all the people come in,” Barbara Cleaver said. “There’s a lot of people that enjoy peaches, and I don’t see a lot of peach festivals going on in the area, which could be part of why people like coming to our festival. As long as people come and enjoy the food, that’s all I care about.”

Community members wait in the New Street United Methodist Church courtyard for their orders to be brought to them, fresh from the church kitchen on Saturday afternoon. Tabitha Johnston