Peach Festival Hosts Largest Event In Chester
By Jane Primerano
The Chester Community Presbyterian Church Peach Festival hasn’t been around as long as the church, but it has been a borough event for more than 50 years.
“It started out as a smorgasbord,” Pastor Chris Scrivens said as he helped out at the “Grandma’s Attic” tent on Sat., Aug. 1.
It soon morphed into a peach festival and now is not only the church’s largest fundraiser, it is also the largest single-day event in Chester, a place known for attracting visitors with a farmers’ market, spring and fall craft fairs and many other events.
The congregation dates from 1752 and the church building from 1851.
“These maples are contemporary with the church,” Scrivens said, pointing to the huge trees in front of the church.
“It brings between 5,000 and 6,000 people to Chester,” Scrivens said. They start lining up at 6:30 for the 10 a.m. event. “Some people were playing cards,” he said. He estimated 1,200 people in line early in the morning.
“We talk to the people in line, we socialize,” the pastor said. He said he spoke to people from Vermont, from South Jersey and a number from New York. Some are flea market people looking for bargains they can resell.
Nancy Morris, working the White Elephant table, said she saw the line snaking through the parking lot by 7:30 a.m.
“One group of girls drives in every year from Long Island,” Jary Vibilian, who was working with Morris, said.
“And Brooklyn people every year,” Morris added.
Besides “Grandma’s Attic” and the White Elephant tent, there is a books and media section, a toy area, a sporting goods section and a place for lamps and electronics.
In the center of it all is the live auction. Professional auctioneer Wayne Hill was rattling along under a big tent.
“He starts at 11 a.m. and doesn’t take a break until everything is gone,” Scrivens said.
The pastor said an auctioneer hired by the church failed to show up one year and Hill’s father, Bunker, stepped in.
“His name is Bunker?” Scrivens partner at Grandma’s Attic asked. “His name is Bunker Hill?”
“The father’s is, yes,” Scrivens answered and went on with his story. The elder Hill served as auctioneer until he retired and his son took over.
Scrivens’ flock is 330 members and it seemed most of them were helping out.
“We have teams of volunteers,” he explained. Some sort through the donations. Teams to sort toys, sporting goods, electronics, household goods and other items get to work after a six-week donation period.
“We couldn’t breathe by the time we closed the donations,” Morris said
When asked about the weirdest donation this year, Morris commented, “Did you notice the lace bra under the table?”
“One year we had a gas mask from World War I,” Vibilian said, adding this year the oddest donation was a pair of machines like the bucking bulls in a country western bar. “We don’t ask,” she said.
There are also teams of bakers who volunteer, Scrivens said. Some of the baking is done at the church and some at the Hacklebarney Cider Mill Farm. “Everything is made by us.”
The baking table was staffed by Myra Wolgamuth, Robin Chu and Martha Smith. They listed the peach kugen, peach pound cake, peach rugula and peach turnovers as the big sellers. The peach pies were gone by 1 p.m.
Boy Scouts from Troop 139, which is sponsored by the church, assisted with parking cars in the church lot and the old Williamson School building across the street.
Proceeds from the festival all go to church missions, including Meals on Wheels/Mid-day Friendship Center, Al-anon, boy and girl scouts and other groups that use the church facilities at no charge. The money also goes to the Chester food pantry, community soup kitchen of Morristown, Camp Johnsonburg, project graduation at area high schools and other local church missions. They also support the Appalachia Service Project, the Newton/Nairobi Partnership in Kenya and the Namumu Orphanage in Zambia.