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Peachy: Church uses 2,300 pounds of peaches to raise funds for missions

By Jackie R. Broach
Coastal Observer

The peaches Marilyn Sholtis ate at the third annual peach festival at St. Paul’s Waccamaw United Methodist Church last week were some of the best she’s ever tasted.

“I’m a member of the church and I work on this festival because it’s so much fun, but this is really what I come for,” the Willbrook resident said, digging into a bowl of vanilla ice cream topped with peach slices the color of a fiery sunset.

“You have to taste this,” Sholtis said, finishing a bite. “It’s incredible. It’s southern summer through and through.”

The church brought more than 2,300 pounds of fresh, South Carolina peaches for the festival, selling them by the bag and in ice cream, pies, cobblers, preserves, smoothies and other tasty dishes.

In all their forms, the peaches got rave reviews from the hundreds who attended the festival, helping to raise money for local missions.

“They’re fabulous, just way too good,” Ruth Keilen of Murrells Inlet said in between bites of peaches and ice cream, by far the most popular dish. “This is the drip-down-your-chin type of peach.”

Keilen isn’t sure if she’s ever had a Georgia peach, but she can’t imagine that anything the Peach State offers could beat what she sampled at the festival. She looked over the pies and cobblers and thought about getting something to take home, but decided it would be a bad idea.

“It’s just too tempting,” she said. “I’d probably eat the whole pie.”

Luckily for the church, others didn’t share her concern or weren’t worried about it. Volunteers made about 200 cobblers and pies and within the first two hours of the festival, they were all sold. It was an improvement over last year, when there were 125 cobblers and pies and all were gone within the first 60 minutes.

Moe Boucher of Allston Plantation was among those who missed out on the take-home desserts last time, so she came earlier this year. She left with a beautiful cobbler, as well as a bag of 10 ripe peaches. Many people left with five or six bags of peaches, volunteers said.

“They’re delicious,” Boucher said of the peaches. “They’re juicy and sweet.”

That was an evaluation heard countless times as people sank their teeth into the fruit.

“They’re so juicy that when the ladies were peeling and cutting them up for preserves, their arms were wet up to the elbows,” said Eric Chidley, a festival organizer. “And they used about half the sugar recommended in the recipes, that’s how sweet they are. It’s amazing. These are some great South Carolina peaches.”

The church gets the peaches from McLeod Farms in McBee on the recommendation of the S.C. Peach Producers Association and the state Department of Agriculture.

“It’s the best thing we could have ever done,” Chidley said. “The quality of these peaches is right at the top.”

Sholtis said she didn’t realize how many peaches the state produces until she got involved with the festival. More than 200 million pounds of peaches are grown annually in South Carolina. California is the only state that produces more.

“They’re so beautiful and perfect when you get them here,” Sholtis said.

Chuck and Mary Hunter drove from Hemingway for the festival because they knew it would have McLeod peaches.

“Oh, they’re so juicy and sweet,” Mary said.

“When you first get them, they’re firm, but after a few days they ripen up and you don’t even have to put sugar on them,” Chuck chimed in.

Mary gave a long list of tasty ways to prepare and serve McLeod peaches, but according to Chuck, the best way to eat them is over ice cream.

“We’ve been eating them every night for a month,” Mary said. They picked up a new supply at the festival to ensure they can keep up the habit for a while longer.

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