HALFMOON TOWNSHIP — Autumn was in the air Saturday as temperatures dipped into the 40s and rain began to fall. But that didnt put a damper on the annual Apple Fall Fest hosted by Way Fruit Farm.
Around the 366-acre farm, the sweet smell of apples tickled Leslie Parishs nose.
Falls my favorite, and I just love this fest. The weathers nice, and it always smells nice, said Parish, a Port Matilda resident. We come every year because its a good time and we know our money is being put to good use.
Way has been operating the farm for 32 years. His farm has been hosting the Apple Fall Fest for 30 years with 14 of those years benefiting the orphanage.
Way said he went on a mission trip about 15 years ago to the Dominican Republic, where he was introduced to the orphanage.
They needed help beyond belief, he said.
Way is a part of Calvary Baptist Church of State College but also works as an independent missionary. This year, his farm will donate at least $10,000 to the orphanage just from proceeds from the festival.
Money also will be donated to help a Dominican boy, Blaudio Suero, who needs surgery to his eardrum that will cost about $25,000, said Sara Pensyl, youth ministry director at Calvary Baptist Church and leader in charge of student volunteers at the farm Saturday.
Theyre overwhelmed by our generosity, Way said of the orphanages reaction.
Every year, Way Fruit Farm hosts an Apple Fall Festival on the second and third Saturdays of October with wagon rides, a pumpkin-picking patch, live entertainment, craft vendors and more.
Food was provided by the local Lions Club and the farm, and 10 percent of the proceeds go toward the orphanage, Way said.
The festival started with just about 800 visitors in the first year. Way said that on Oct. 12, an estimated 3,000 people were in attendance. On Saturday, Way added that another 4,000 showed up.
Weve made it to target local families and to give back, Way said.
Volunteers were handing out samples of apple cider and apple butter on crackers at the farm entrance on Halfmoon Valley Road.
Patron Jodi Petrakas said that the sweet taste of apples complemented the salty, buttery taste of the spread perfectly.
Its to die for, she said.
At a stand outside, Joanne Smith spent most of the day Saturday putting potatoes in a drill-powered potato slicer as her husband, Kevin Smith, and fellow volunteer Bob Shirey cooked them to a light brown color in a deep fryer. The whole process takes about five minutes, Shirey said.
The smell of the home-cooked potato chips lingered in the air as customers like Shirley Dean went back for a second helping with her grandson, Jeremy Dean.
Other stands sold apple-baked goodies like apple dumplings, while a bunny barn, hay rides and 24 craft vendors were showcased at the fest.
Sixty volunteers and 30 farm staffers were on hand, including a group of State College Area High School students from Calvary Baptist.
It takes a while to get all this going, but we have a lot of hands to help, Way said.
Britney Milazzo can be reached at 231-4648. Follow her on Twitter @ M11azzo.