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Churches: Bakers raise output for peach festival

“You have to taste this,” Marilyn Sholtis said, finishing a bite of vanilla ice cream topped with fresh, juicy peach slices at last year’s annual Peach Festival in Litchfield.

The peaches were some of the best Sholtis had ever tasted — an opinion that was echoed again and again in the crowd of hundreds that attended the event.

“It’s incredible,” Sholtis said of the fruit. “It’s southern summer through and through.”

People will line up for the festival again on July 27 when it returns to St. Paul’s Waccamaw United Methodist Church for its fourth year. They’ll show up for fellowship and a kids’ corner featuring inflatables and face and hair painting. But mostly they’ll come to eat peaches in all their delicious forms, from whole fruit, to smoothies, preserves, cobblers and peach-flavored ice cream.

Doors open at 4 p.m. and based on past festivals, all but the whole peaches will be gone long before the event ends at 8 p.m.

“Last year we sold everything but about 12 boxes of peaches on Friday and we sold those to church members on Sunday,” said Eric Chidley, festival chairman.

Like last year, the festival committee ordered about 1 ton of peaches for next week’s festival. About 20 church members spent a recent Tuesday peeling and cutting peaches that were made into peach preserves. There will be 81 pints and 47 half-pints of preserves at the festival.

“They always sell, just bang! They go out like crazy,” Chidley said.

There will also be at least 200 pies and cobblers for sale.

“That’s the most we’ve ever had,” he said. “We’ve got more people baking this year, which is wonderful. But they’ll still sell out in a heartbeat.”

Festival organizers are hoping for good weather so Ed Piotrowski, the meteorologist for WPDE, can be on hand to give a hurricane presentation. He has promised to attend as long as there’s no severe weather to keep him tied up elsewhere. Chidley has been trying to have Piotrowski present at the festival since it was introduced in 2009.

“We’ve always had the weather against us,” Chidley said. “Hopefully this year the Lord will smile on us and we can get [Piotrowski] here. He always draws a good crowd.”

Getting a crowd hasn’t been a problem for the festival in the past, but “we can handle more,” Chidley said. “Our goal for this year is to raise a minimum of $10,000 for local missions.”

The festival raised $8,950 last year, so he’s optimistic the church will be able to meet its goal.

“I’ll be disappointed if we don’t.” He said people have already been asking about the festival and looking forward to it, and Litchfield by the Sea has agreed to promote the event to its renters.

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