Good Life

Eats & drinks | Sweet smell of pies part of Memorial tradition in Boalsburg

Judge Jane Mincemoyer begins choosing the winner of the pie contest at the Boalsburg Memorial Day festival in 2010.
Judge Jane Mincemoyer begins choosing the winner of the pie contest at the Boalsburg Memorial Day festival in 2010. CDT file photo

Editor’s note: The following column is a composite, pieced together with the help of some archival stories about the annual Boalsburg Memorial Day celebration. The fact that it is the same year after year is part of its charm!

A slice of Americana will be served Monday at the Boalsburg Memorial Day celebration. Area bakers will bring pies, often still warm from the oven, to compete in the annual fruit pie contest, which takes place at 11 a.m. on the Diamond. And that is just one small part of the celebration.

This year is the 151st anniversary of the first remembrance, and at 6 p.m. Monday, Civil War re-enactors will fire their cannons to commemorate the historic event.

In 1864 14-year-old Boalsburg resident Emma Hunter and her friend, Sophie Keller, picked some flowers and laid them on Emma’s father’s grave. Dr. Hunter had died in service to the Union Army. At the same cemetery, Elizabeth Meyers was laying flowers on the grave of her son Amos, a young private killed in the battle of Gettysburg. The grieving mother and girls came together and shared their flowers together at both grave sites, creating a grief support group — and starting the Memorial Day observance.

Memorial Day in central Pennsylvania has an old-fashioned charm. Boalsburg, despite sharing the distinction with other towns that also claim to be the birthplace of the holiday, goes all out with a street fair and community celebration that involves hundreds of local residents pitching in to make a great big party for itself.

The fireman’s carnival with rides and bingo, a morning 5K run through the village, plant sales, craft booths, live music, an antique car show and Maypole dancing provide entertainment for the whole family, and food options are numerous and tantalizing.

The soup and bread sale to benefit the Heritage Museum, held behind the blacksmith’s shop, is a well-oiled operation, with the fire under the cauldrons tended by dedicated Dave Guss, who makes sure the soups are kept at a gentle simmer all day without too much ash landing in the pot.

Ham and bean soup is donated by Duffy’s and the Village Vegetable soup recipe is distributed throughout the community — returning in many forms. All the donors of vegetable soup blend into one composite chef as the various containers are dumped into the simmering cauldron and stirred by volunteers throughout the day, then carefully ladled at arm’s length into cups for the watching queue. Participating as a baker, donating to the dozens of loaves of bread that are dutifully portioned out by the many volunteers, you share a ministry of communion as your bread nourishes your neighbor.

The fruit pie contest, as a contestant or as a spectator and purchaser of the remains, is a fitting appreciation of the endangered art of pie making. Jennison Kipp credits her mom, Phyllis, for her first place in the contest in 2001.

“She taught me how to make pies and once won the contest herself. I’ve been baking pies since I was a 10, but last year was the first time I ever entered. I consulted with my mom about the filling and we decided that an apple-pear combination would be perfect.”

Try your luck with the contest in Boalsburg. Pies are accepted from 8 a.m. until the contest starts at 11. Follow the signs on Loop Road and Chambers Alley to drop off your pie.

Judges Betty Jane Mincemoyer and Robin Bastress will be waiting for your entry with their clipboards in hand. Supportive pie enthusiasts will be hovering on the Diamond, waiting for the judges’ decisions and, afterwards, for their chance at samples of the pies at $2 a slice. Proceeds of the pie sale support the Boalsburg Village Conservancy.