Not many things can compare with the joy of a sunny October Saturday spent at the Geauga County Apple Butter Festival. The festival is held once a year, in October, in Burton, Ohio. Six dollars bought us a day of unashamed freedom to eat and gawk and sit under the trees and purchase things we knew we didn’t need but wanted anyway (think Big Boy bobblehead doll).
Against the canvas of Autumn leaves and rolling pastoral hills is a variety of sights and smells and tastes as can’t be found in one place except for once every year.
Everything to see would by themselves have been interesting. All together, one after the other, they warmed the heart and made the women want to purchase most of it. So much America grouped together for no particular reason other than that’s what we always do this time of year in Northeast Ohio:
– Amish quilts and other Amish textiles, sold by the lovely Amish women in their plain blue dresses;
– A John Deere green tabletop steam engine connected to and turning the crank of the ice cream maker;
– The white-haired Saturday swing band;
– A kerosene-fueled 1920 tractor (that had to be used in the way north forty because it was so loud it blew the store-bought glass windows out of the cabin);
– The ironworking shed with the automatic hammer;
– Two caged alpacas that growled constantly and looked every-ready to spit;
– A Big Boy bobblehead doll;
– Folding tables covered with junk labeled and being sold briskly as antiques;
– Kites and soap bubbles from the bubble machine floating over the valley;
– Homemade soaps, bathsalts, oils, moisturizers, candles;
– Vats of raw apples over roaring wood fires, slowly being stirred into apple butter;
– Wagons, buggies, combines, tractors, two horses, and a cow;
– Two old men sitting together on a wooden bench underneath a maple tree, glad to be waiting for their wives;
– The great big clown lady seated next to the south fence, painting designs on kids’ faces and blowing balloon animals;
– The Shetland pony ride and the kids so small atop the horses that their dad walked beside them and held them on the saddles;
– Little kids burying themselves in haystacks and parents letting them stay buried;
– Mom and kids and the dads who weren’t out deer hunting
We bought thick slices of Amish white bread covered with hot apple butter, one slice for a dollar. The crockpot full of apple butter had a swarm of bees around it and the vendors had a system worked out where they’d count down and on “three!” one would jerk the lid off the pot and the other would dip his ladle into the butter, quick, then the lid would slap down again before any bees flew into the vat. There were pierogis (potato pancakes), funnel cakes, barbeque beef and pork ribs, cups of hot coffee for a dollar, kielbasas and sausage and cabbage; kettlecorn; loaves of fresh Amish bread.
We watched the woodworker create another bowl on his lathe. The woman next to me took a call on her cell phone. She closed it and smiled. “My husband just shot his second buck in ten minutes.” The crowd clapped appreciatively. Fathers carried sleeping children on their shoulders, mothers pushed strollers, children ran or played in the hay.
Fifty yards of straight train track went back and forth carrying small children who giggled at an engineer who was twice the size of the train engine. He had a striped engineer cap that was too small and made his head look pointy and huge.
I wish I could go back.