Salem UCC's Peach Festival from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. today
COAL TOWNSHIP - Peeled, split in half and pitted, a peach is sliced thinly with a paring knife, making juicy yellowish segments dropped into a mixing bowl.
One peach down, 2,700 to go.
The process was repeated over and over and over Thursday morning in the basement of Salem United Church of Christ, 1300 W. Pine St., the second of consecutive days devoted to baking some 400 pies for today's peach festival at the RCA Grounds in Ranshaw.
That many pies calls for 44 crates of peaches from Dries Orchards, which estimates about 60 per crate, and 100 pounds of shortening. The church bought 275 pounds of flour for the festival, and some of it will be used to make haluski noodles.
"Did you count the 50 pounds I just bought?" asked Millie Mowery, of Elysburg.
"No, so add that," Lori Foura answered.
Make that 325 pounds of flour.
Add 50 dozen eggs, 400 pounds of potatoes, 300 pounds of onions - not for the pies, of course - 50 pounds of hot sausage and a 44-pound wheel of cheese.
That's part of the shopping list, anyway, for a menu of barbecue, hamburgers, hot dogs, hot sausage, potato cakes, pierogies, pigeons, haluski, funnel cakes, snow cones and angel food cakes. Vanilla and peach ice cream from Maurer's Dairy will be served, along with a whole lot of pie.
Today's is the 24th Peach Festival. It began in 1990 at the church, and the resulting chaos spurred its relocation to Shamokin's Claude Kehler Community Park before moving again to its current home.
Many of Thursday's volunteers were around for the first peach festival. Karen Williams recalled strawberry festivals before that. Like the picnics for other churches, the festival helps keeps the doors open and the lights on at Salem.
A peeled peach in her left hand and a paring knife in her right, Carolyn Weaver said her grandparents were among the church folk who helped create Salem in the early 20th century. She said they went door to door for donations.
"Maybe we should do it again," joked Larry Diorio.
Diorio continues slicing peaches one by one. He said there's no proven method, and that everyone has a style their own.
"They won't let me use my switch blade," he cracks.
The peaches are eventually drained, the resulting juice used to make wine. Once enough fruit is sliced, a half-dozen ladies begin to prepare the pie dough. They trade knives for rolling pins and pie tins and finish off what a machine roller starts.
The tins are lined and the dough pinched for a crust before the filling is plopped in. Up to 70 pies are loaded into pre-heated ovens and baked at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.
It's shortly before 10 a.m. and the volunteers have a full day's work left.
"We have to be out by 4 p.m.," said Nancy Weaver. "That's when the people come in to make potato cake batter."
While the pies get closer to their stays in the ovens, Carolyn Weaver wondered aloud just how much peeling and slicing is left to be finished.
"Are we done yet?" she asked.
Diorio said, "Yeah, only 35 more crates to go."
"You've got to be kidding!" Carolyn Weaver said.
Preparations for the festival began in June and continued in July, culminating in today's one-day festival, held from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. There is a basket raffle, 50/50 tickets, children's games, face painting, balloon art, clowns and live entertainment from Billy D. and Rose.