Fort Loudon Peach Festival keeps humming along
FORT LOUDON, Pa. — More than eight years ago, Anna Rotz was looking for a way to raise funds to support her small church in the rural community of Fort Loudon, Pa. With a population of fewer than 1,000 in the town, she wanted to draw as many as possible to get involved and to attract others as well.
Rotz settled on hosting a peach festival, offering fresh baked goods and some musical entertainment for the people who gathered.
Though Rotz passed away during February 2017, her granddaughter Cayla Richards, 30, of Fort Loudon, with a committee of about 10 others, carries on the annual tradition and works to build upon its momentum. This year’s eighth annual Fort Loudon Peach Festival, sponsored by Trinity United Church of Christ in Fort Loudon, will take place from 8 to 2 p.m. Saturday, Aug.18, at the Fort Loudon Community Center grounds offering food, vendors, games, musical entertainment, petting zoo, reptile show, puppet show and more.
“My gramma did her research. We do it on the third Saturday in August. There were so many different things going on, but there were not many (peach festivals),” Richards said.
Richards grew up as part of the Trinity United Church of Christ congregation and joined the Peach Festival team three years ago. Rotz asked her to take over the vendor portion of the event when another organizer stepped down.
“I was all excited about it,” Richards said. “When the peach festival first started, it had around 10 or 20 vendors and they did well. I thought if you have more vendors, you have more chance at a good crowd, so I started recruiting.”
Her first years with the festival, it grew to 50 vendors. Each year since she has set a goal to increase the number. This year, it will have around 100 vendors, including arts, crafts and direct sales.
Richards said it is important to her to carry on her grandmother’s tradition.
“It means a lot to me, actually, being as close to her as I was. After losing her, I kind of put forth a lot more effort than I probably would have. The peach festival was her thing, and she was big in the community, always helping out,” she said.
Organizers have expanded entertainment for both adults and children. Musical entertainment will include the gospel music of David Powers, as well as Blue Ridge Thunder Cloggers, and Tresa Day with jazz standards, old school country, soul and rock. There will a dinosaur show; caricaturist; bounce house; build-a-bear; barrel train rides; and games such as lollipop ring toss, cornhole and milk bottle toss.
“We wanted to be sure to have something for the kids as well, to really make it a family day,” Richards said.
Trinity United has a congregation of fewer than 50 members. Sponsors help offset the cost of the festival. Last year’s event raised around $5,000 and drew around 1,000 visitors, Richards estimated, and she anticipates this year will be “as big if not bigger.”
“It’s a small town and a small church, and the festival benefits the church with being able to keep the church going and to support other individuals and organizations,” she said.
In its first year, church members made all the peach dishes for the festival. As the event grew, in an effort to offer consistent products and to improve efficiency, they began working with an area baker to make the desserts.
“We have a lady from (Path) valley who makes all the cobblers and peach pies so we don’t have too many different recipes and too much variety,” she said. “People seem to come for the cobbler, the peach pies. Peach cream puffs also seem to be a big hit.”
Church members help with serving and selling the peach treats, along with operating concessions of breakfast sandwiches, barbecue chicken, ham sandwiches, beverages and more.
Area peach farmers will set up a produce stand with peaches and other locally grown foods.
New to the festival this year is the addition of peach ice cream.
“Typically, it is very hot the day of the festival. Hopefully, it will help people cool off,” Richards said. “It’ll be a nice day in a small community. People can just come out to the event with their kids and they can enjoy all day long.”