Vonnie Henninger got a call Friday night from a Bellefonte woman asking Henninger to save at least two homemade apple dumplings for her and her husband.
Karen and Daryl Barto arrived late Saturday to the Aaronsburg Dutch Fall Festival and thought the apple dumplings would have been sold out by the time they got there, so they tried to have a few saved ahead of time.
The festival favorite is something the couple never fail to taste each year.
It’s been a commodity at the festival since the late 1970s, as a way to represent traditional Pennsylvania Dutch food and to raise money for the Penns Valley Area Historical Museum, said Henninger, a volunteer.
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“We make the dumplings a few weeks ahead of time, but the planning is much longer,” she said. “It takes about 30 people.”
Fellow volunteer Kay Gray said a group of people met at the Aaronsburg Civic Club kitchen the three Wednesdays leading up to the fest. There, they formed an assembly line to put the dumplings together.
About 10 to 12 people at a time would make the dough, and then hand it off to another group who would roll the dough and fill it with apples peeled by another dozen volunteers, until 1,500 were made, Gray said.
“We tried to do 500 dumplings a week,” Gray said. “We did our job and rolled it down the line to get them done quickly, but with quality.”
Cortland apples were purchased from MacNeal Orchards in Rebersburg for the dumplings, Henninger said.
Last year, due to a local shortage of apples, the price increased and resulted in a less profitable year, Henninger said.
This year, apple prices dropped and the goal was to raise at least $6,000, Gray said.
Volunteer Wes Miller said that once the dumplings were made, they were put in a freezer in the barn at the historical museum, and then taken out on Saturday and sold individually or by the dozen.
“It’s a process, that’s for sure,” Miller said. “We take shifts and see a lot of people come in to stock up.”
When asked where the recipe comes from, no one knew.
“It’s just something we’ve always had,” Henninger said. “It’s really the best, but based on the texture of the apples, we sometime have to improvise so the mix isn’t too soupy.”
But it’s not something customers mind.
“They’re the best,” Karen Barto said. “That’s why we try our best each year to get our hands on them as quickly as possible.”
Henninger estimated the dumplings will be sold out by Sunday afternoon.
“It’s probably one of the busier areas,” Henninger said about the line that wrapped around the historical museum barn where the dumplings were sold.
The festival included live entertainment for children and adults, art and pumpkin painting contests, a puppet show, pony rides and about 60 craft vendors.
There is no admission to enter the festival, but there is a fee for some individual activities, said event spokeswoman Erin Barto, who is no relation to Karen and Daryl Barto.
Erin Barto expects up to 4,000 people to attend the event.
The goal is to raise $6,000 to $7,000, which will go back into planning for next year’s event and be distributed to community organizations like the Millheim Fire Company and the food bank, Barto said.
Barto said organizers are already thinking ahead for next year’s event — Oct. 3 and 4, 2015 — which will celebrate its 40th year.
The fest will continue 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday on Main Street and at Wert Memorial Park in Aaronsburg.