By Lisa Capobianco
If asked what is one highlight of the Apple Harvest Festival that draws thousands of visitors to the event every year, residents and non-residents of Southington will say, “Apple fritters.”
The old-fashioned desert, coated with a cinnamon topping, brings a line full of visitors too long to count, and volunteers from Zion Lutheran Church can attest to that. For the past 44 years, the local church has volunteered to prepare, cook, and serve the fritters at the booth.
John Miller has been a parishioner of the church for more than 40 years, and he is in charge of all the apples. Miller worked at the apple fritter booth at age 12, and looks forward to the event every year. He said making the apple fritters every year has been “woven into the fabric” of his congregation.
“Many hands make light work,” Miller said. “It is amazing how much we can accomplish.”
Miller said the process of preparing and making the apple fritters is not easy. Volunteers from the church must work collaboratively together to accomplish a series of tasks weeks before the festival begins.
Hundreds of volunteers all take on a specific task, starting in September. They must steam clean booth equipment and complete the dry-mixing process for all the ingredients before weighing, measuring and packaging them for individual mixes. Volunteers also weigh and bag pre-diced Cortland apples delivered from Lyman Orchards in Middlefield. Besides preparing the ingredients and equipment, a group of volunteers organize the booth, where they must keep an inventory of supplies at the time of the festival. There is even a refrigerator at the booth to keep the apples fresh throughout the week.
Miller said working together gives parishioners an opportunity to develop long-lasting friendships.
“It really has become a part of our church over the years,” he said. “Everybody has fun doing it.”
Although Miller could not reveal the apple fritter recipe, they did share the origin of the recipe. Dot Czarnota, a former parishioner of the church, discovered the recipe more than 40 years ago. Czarnota tried the recipe over and over again until she found the perfect fit for the festival. Volunteers have continued to use Czarnota’s recipe to this day.
Lori Cote, the chairperson who oversees all aspects of making the apple fritters, said their booth is unique because it is the only booth open during the week when the festival is not running. She also said parishioners benefit from working together to make the booth a success.
“It is important to our church, it helps get people together and to get to know each other,” Cote said. “It is like a big family.”