By Rick Palsgrove
When the leaves start to turn in autumn it means that Apple Butter Day is coming.
Groveport’s 44th annual Apple Butter Day will be held in Groveport’s Heritage Park near the historic log house on Wirt Road on Oct. 14 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Apple Butter Day is an event rich in tradition featuring historical demonstrations, crafters, and great food – especially the piping hot, freshly stirred apple butter slathered on homemade bread. There’s nothing like the taste of homemade apple butter cooked over a wood fire to make one embrace autumn.
Apples played a vital role in 19th century Ohio’s and Groveport’s pioneer agricultural economy and daily life. Apples could be stored year round and travelled well when shipped over the rough roads or the slow moving freight boats on the Ohio and Erie Canal.
Apples, in addition to being a refreshing treat picked right off the tree, could be used in many products used by the pioneers like dried apples, apple butter, cider, apple brandy, apple chips, and vinegar. They were even fed to hogs, which were important livestock to the Ohio pioneer.
The Groveport Heritage Society created Apple Butter Day as a way to pay tribute to the town’s pioneer past and to educate people about what life was once like in Groveport and nearby farms in the 19th and 20th centuries. The festival strives to remain true to the area’s historic roots.
Apple Butter Day has a relaxed atmosphere and every year one can get a hearty bowl of bean soup and warm cornbread and then follow that up with an ample slice of homemade bread topped with warm, sweet apple butter.
It’s a day to be spent outdoors reveling in what fall has to offer before gray, cold November drives everyone indoors.
Apple Butter Day is a day when people who have long moved away stop by the old town again to see family and friends. It is a day for those who have remained in town to reacquaint themselves with their neighbors. It is a day that encourages us to slow down. It is a day to enjoy the pleasures of simple foods. It is a day that reinforces our link to those who have gone before us and to those who will follow.
There are volunteer opportunities available to help on Apple Butter Day, Oct. 14. Volunteer opportunities are: Stir and jar apple butter in Heritage Park. Four stirrers needed at all times. There is a need for as many people as possible; Slicing bread in the shelter house by the log house in Heritage Park; Work in booths (two hour shifts, beginning at 10 a.m.) selling apple butter in jars or on slices, helping stir and jar the apple butter, and selling quilt tickets.
The Groveport Log House
A center piece of Heritage Park and Apple Butter Day is the 1815 era Groveport Log House.
The log house originally sat on the southwest corner of Main and Madison streets, where the Groveport Post Office is now located. Workers discovered the log house as they were dismantling it in 1974 to make way for the Post Office. Volunteers from the Groveport Heritage and Preservation Society pitched in to preserve the house and in 1974, with help from the United States Army Corps of Engineers, moved it to its present location in Heritage Park.
Over the years the log house has under gone historical restorations and renovations, but it remains a historical focal point for Groveport and serves as an example of our pioneer ancestors’ way of life.
The log house will be open throughout Apple Butter Day.
Sharp’s Landing building
Across Wirt Road from the log house and Heritage Park, the Groveport Heritage and Preservation Society is reconstructing a 60×24 foot, one story, brick, 19th century canal era building.
The building is believed to have been used as a smokehouse, bakery, and ice house that sat along the Ohio and Erie Canal in what was once Sharp’s Landing at the corner of Rohr and Pontius roads.
In 2015, a warehouse development planned for the structure’s original Rohr Road site required the more than century old building be either demolished or moved. The GHPS dismantled the building and had the pieces moved to its current site across from the log house along Wirt Road. Reconstruction of the building is ongoing. Once the building is rebuilt, the GHPS plans to use it as a museum to represent the commercial life that once operated along the canal.
However, the reconstruction will not be completed by this year’s Apple Butter Day.
“The building isn’t quite finished as of yet,” said GHPS President Craig Lovelace. “There are no windows or doors installed and the roof is expected to be on by Apple Butter Day. So, it is doubtful anything formal regarding visitors will be possible.”
The GHPS hopes the reconstruction of the building will be complete by the 2018 Apple Butter Day.
“With any luck, the building itself will be completed soon. A walkway won’t be started until next year, there’s some landscape work that is needed, and the inside will need to be staged,” said Lovelace.
Lovelace said the biggest delay in completing the building was the wet weather this summer.
“The rainy weather earlier in the year waterlogged some roofing materials that consequently needed a goodly amount of time to dry out,” said Lovelace. “Secondly, as a small non-profit civic organization, our project had to compete with other private commercial jobs our contractor’s business took on. We understood from the start that there would be some lag time in getting it completed. I think it’s important that people know this is a self-funded GHPS project.”
Lovelace said the aim is to create an educational center that will highlight the building’s role as a stop along the Ohio and Erie Canal.
“It will provide visitors a glimpse of everyday living at the time, including a slice of how people traveled and why,” said Lovelace. “History is meant to show us our similarities and differences with our ancestors, and impart lessons for how we can move forward. Reconstructing the building does just that. Leaving the building where it was and letting development swallow it up would have been the easy choice. Saving it means new generations will get to learn about the importance of the Ohio canal system and how it opened up the state, and especially Central Ohio, to economic development.”
Music and entertainment
Music will grace the main stage in Heritage Park as well as in and around the log house. Musical performers include Lonesome Meadow, Jackson Street Ramblers, Madison Christian Band, Delightful Sounds, Out of Mind, Mark Springer and Roger and Sharon Tedrow, and Kaufman Band.
Storyteller Ellen Ford will perform at Palm Pond from 2-4 p.m.
The Groveport Madison Senior Citizens’ cornbread and bean dinner will be held during Groveport’s Apple Butter Day on Oct. 14 at Crooked Alley KidSpace, located at the corner of Wirt Road and Cherry Street. Cost is $4 per dinner.
Apple Butter Day activities
The day features craft demonstrations, historical demonstrations, hayrides, pony rides, children’s activities, and a petting zoo for kids, and food vendors. There will also be a display of antique tractors.
The cane fishing derby for kids age 15 and under will be held at Palm Pond from 10:30-11:30 a.m. (sign up at 10 a.m.). The first 50 kids get to fish with a cane pole. Bait is provided.
Apple Butter Day 5K
The fifth annual Apple Butter Day 5K run will be held Oct. 14 starting in Groveport Park, 7370 Groveport Road. The 5K run/walk begins at 9:30 a.m. A 1 mile fun run/ walk starting at 9 a.m. Cost to register is $20 for the 5K and $10 for the 1 mile fun run. The 5K course uses sidewalks, nature trails, and a paved leisure path. For information call (614) 836-1000, ext. 1513.
Two years ago, the Groveport Parks Department planted 30 apple trees in the Palm Pond area of Heritage Park. The trees in the next couple of years will potentially offer a variety of apples including Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Wealthy, Haralred, Gravenstein, Honey Crisp, Red Delicious, Zestar, Gala, and McIntosh. Our ancestors commonly planted apple trees in Groveport in the 19th century. Some of the trees are starting to produce apples. The hope is to use some of the apples from these young trees at future Apple Butter Day festivals. Visit the orchard and check out the growth of the trees.
Free shuttle service
The Groveport Transportation Department will provide a free shuttle service to and from Crooked Alley KidSpace on Wirt road near the Apple Butter Day festival on Oct. 14. Shuttles will leave from the Groveport Recreation Center parking lot, 7370 Groveport Road, every half hour at the top and bottom of the hour beginning at 9 a.m. and ending at 5 p.m. The shuttle will leave the corner of Wirt Road and Cherry Street every half hour at the quarter hour starting at 9:15 a.m. and ending at 5:15 p.m.
Groveport Heritage Museum
Interested in Groveport’s history? Visit the Groveport Heritage Museum, located in Groveport Town Hall, 648 Main St. The museum features photographs, newspapers, maps and historical artifacts of Groveport’s history.
The traditional Apple Butter Day spelling bee has been discontinued due to a lack of participation in recent years.
No dogs allowed
Per city ordinance, people are prohibited from bringing animals to city sponsored event and festival areas, which includes Apple Butter Day. The law does not apply to guide or service dogs, police dogs, animal exhibits at the events, or pets on residential properties within the event area.