Autumn is Apple Festival time in Salem

Ross Robbins of Montville peels apples Wednesday while helping the Congregational Church of Salem prepare for its 42nd annual Apple Festival, which will be held Saturday, Oct. 29.

Salem - The rich smell of cinnamon and apples wafted through a window in the kitchen, where a fresh batch of Swedish apple bread pudding simmered on a stovetop.

In the room outside, helpers peeled and diced hundreds of apples at a steady pace. In between a few laughs, they neatly bagged up their work.

No one inside the Christian Education Building at the Congregational Church of Salem on this recent morning could help but breathe in that smell - the aroma that comes around each October.

Yes, it's about that time again. The Salem Apple Festival is right around the corner.

The 42nd annual edition will be held - as always - on the last Saturday of the month. Residents and many others will fill the Town Green on Oct. 29 to take part in one of the town's most storied traditions.

Preparation for the event started Sept. 25 with the annual "dough day" and will run all the way up to the event. It takes quite a bit of planning to make this day run smoothly.

But all the advance work is needed to produce the familiar treats - apple pies, apple crisps, Apple Betty, apple pancakes and apple muffins. Don't forget the hot dogs with apple sauerkraut or the apple fritters.

In this town of about 4,200, this is a day you don't want to miss.

"This is just a wonderful community event," said Shirley Dubeau, a main organizer and the wife of the Rev. Timothy Dubeau, the church's pastor. "Folks come here to see each other as much as to get good pies."

The apple festival started in 1969 as a way to pay off the church's mortgage. Organizers pictured the countless possibilities with apples, and the event snowballed from there. Today, the apples are donated by Scott's Orchard and Nursery in Glastonbury and Scott's Connecticut Valley Orchard in Deep River.

On a recent morning, about 15 helpers were hard at work by 9:30 a.m., prepping every facet of the apple operation. Nearly 400 pies were already stacked, frozen and put away in a walk-in freezer in a garage on the church grounds.

It seems the preparation behind the apple festival can be just as fun as the event itself. And people appreciate all the work that goes into it, said Judy Gadbois, one of the original organizers of the apple festival.

"People know we make everything from scratch," said Gadbois, a Salem resident for more than 50 years. "That doesn't happen very much anymore."

Proceeds from the apple festival go to the church, and a percentage will go toward the congregation's missionary benevolence fund. Another portion will go to the property fund, which has helped pay for the unfinished, 4,800-square-foot community center across the street from the church.

As always, organizers expect a great turnout at the end of the month. The event goes on rain or shine.

They also suggest that it's a good idea to be on time.

"If you see that line for the apple fritters, you will know," Melanie Miller said, as she packed up some apples. "This is a good Connecticut, New England thing to do."


If you go

What: 42nd annual Salem Apple Festival

Where: The Town Green

When: Oct. 29 at 9 a.m. (event will run as long as pies and other goods last)

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