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A little tart, a little sweet

Apples are the perfect fall treat

Whether they’re red, green, pink or gold, it doesn’t get any better for most Virginians than a fresh, crisp apple from a Virginia orchard. Unless, of course, you pair it with a bowl of warm Brunswick stew.

But short of driving a few hours to an apple orchard, fresh apples are out of reach for most folks in the Hampton Roads area. That’s where the Magnolia United Methodist Church’s AppleFest comes in.

“This is the busiest time of the day,” Connie Schubert says as she hustles around the church parking lot about 1:30 p.m. on AppleFest day.

Apples practically advertise themselves at the Magnolia United Methodist Church AppleFest. Fuji apples are the most popular, while Red Delicious are least popular among the seven varieties.

A couple dozen volunteers from the church wear red shirts featuring a prayer from the biblical psalmist, David: “Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings” (Psalm 17:8). They’re arranging bushels, half-bushels and pecks of apples and carrying them to the waiting vehicles of the last customers of the day. Between 500 and 800 people have already picked up their apples at the Wilroy Road church.

“It is truly organized chaos,” Schubert said.

AppleFest supports church missions both nearby and overseas. But for many of the event’s regular customers, the chance to get apples cheaper and fresher than at the grocery store is the primary draw.

Fuji apples are by far the most popular. This year, they accounted for more than half of the total ordered of all seven varieties available. Granny Smith apples are next, followed by Winesap and Golden Delicious. The iconic Red Delicious is actually the least popular (sorry, teachers!).

It all added up this year to a whopping 563 bushels of apples. Customers also ordered 230 gallons of apple cider and 20 cases of apple butter, along with 230 quarts of Brunswick stew made by the men of the church.

The truck arrives the day before AppleFest, with some apples on board having been picked fresh that morning. The big day starts at 4:30 a.m. for some volunteers, who break down the bushels of apples into the sizes ordered and arrange them to be easily found when fulfilling orders.

“It takes a while to break the apples down, because we want to be very gentle with them,” Schubert said. “Then it’s full steam ahead.”

It takes a lot of volunteers to unload that many apples. Every church member helps with AppleFest in some capacity, and Boy Scout Troop and Cub Scout Pack 73 also help.

“AppleFest is successful because of the members of the church,” Schubert said.

You have them to thank when you savor a tart mid-afternoon snack or get rave reviews on your homemade apple pie at Thanksgiving. And if you missed out this year, check out the church’s website next September for an order form.