This year’s 10th annual East Park Apple Festival included a beautiful clear sky, perfect Fall weather, plenty of community involvement, and LOTS of apples. The festival, which has been held at historic Woodford Mansion every October since 2009, is a collaboration between Woodford, the East Park Revitalization Alliance (EPRA), and the Philadelphia Orchard Project (POP). These partners first began to work together in 2008, when the Fairmount Park Commission (now Philadelphia Parks & Recreation) approved planting of the first fruit trees at Woodford. Plantings now include dozens of fruit and nut trees, a berry garden, pollinator garden, and herb garden that help bring to life the history of the landscape while serving residents of today’s Strawberry Mansion neighborhood by providing fresh fruit and educational programming.
On October 20th, 2018, community members attending the Apple Festival enjoyed free food prepared by various volunteers, tours of the mansion and orchard, freshly pressed apple cider, a tasting of apple varieties, and various activities led by the partner organizations.
As guests arrived around noon, activities began. POP set up its information table by the orchard, accompanied by volunteers and dozens of potted trees. At this event, along with a several others during Philadelphia Orchard Week, POP provided those interested with a free fruit tree to take and plant at home through a grant from UPS and Keep America Beautiful. Many fruit tree types were available, including Asian Pear, Peach, and Pawpaw! POP Executive Director Phil Forsyth later led a tour of the Woodford Orchard and neighborhood kids got to pick and eat some early ripening American Persimmons.
Martha Moffat, who you could find helping out in every corner of the festival, is Site Manager of Woodford Mansion. Ten years ago, Ms. Moffat recalls, when the first festival commenced, “it was cold and pouring rain. It wasn’t much fun, but we pushed forward and look, here we are ten years after, lots of big trees, people, the sun is shining.” She could not be more proud and is thrilled to be a larger part of the community through their partnerships with EPRA and POP.
Near the entrance of the festival, you could find a beautiful red apple cider press, piles of apples, and EPRA staff and volunteers cranking away to make those apples into sweet, fresh cider. Suku John, who is EPRA’s Executive Director and a master of the cider press, was happy to see such a great turnout this year. EPRA has been working as the primary stewards of the Woodford Orchard since its planting, with ongoing training and support from POP. Dr. John reports that plans of further orchard expansion are to come with the help of a group called the Fair Amount Food Forest.
Michael Muehlbauer and other volunteer members of the Fair Amount Food Forest collective also had a table set up at the festival and spent the day handing out information and receiving feedback from the community on possibilities to add new plantings and programs to the existing orchard space. They also provided activities for the kids and fresh herbal tea. On top of providing information, activities, and tea, Mr. Muehlbauer was happy to be there, saying “the festival is a relaxed event with a wonderful vibe and great people.”
This years event came to a close just about when the apples did. Honeycrisp was the decidedly “most popular” apple in the taste test, guests left with faces painted and stomachs full of all things apple, and the mansion and orchard received lots of welcome foot traffic. Event partners Woodford Mansion, EPRA, POP, Fair Amount Food Forest, and community members all look forward to another 10 years of East Park Apple Festivals!
This POP Blog post was written by 2018 POP Administrative Assistant Natalie Agoos with assistance from Executive Director Phil Forsyth.
SUPPORT US! If you found this entry useful, informative, or inspiring, please consider a donation of any size to help POP in planting and supporting community orchards in Philadelphia: phillyorchards.org/donate.
Check out more photos of this year’s East Park Apple Festival courtesy of WHYY: