Published September 19, 2019


NORTH READING — You’d think after a quarter of a century the volunteers who put on the town’s beloved Apple Festival every September would be slowing down.

But that’s just not the case. Chalk it up to their hearty New England lineage. Every year, for the past 25 years, the members of North Reading’s Historical and Antiquarian Society and North Reading’s Minit and Militia transform the grounds and buildings of the Rev. Daniel Putnam House on Bow Street into a miniature Colonial village. And hundreds flock to Bow Street to enjoy it all.

BLUE RIBBON winner Noelle Rudloff earned the title of best apple pie baker at the 25th annual Apple Festival. Her daughters, Arden, 8, (left) and Dorothy, 7, were excited to celebrate with Mom. (Courtesy Photo)

The mainstays remain — the pony rides and children’s games, the tours of an ever-expanding array of 17th, 18th and 19th century buildings, the art raffle and auction, and of course the apple pie baking contest. The best apple pie bakers in town continue to submit their secret recipes to be judged by a panel of blind taste-testers. The winning pies are still sliced up and served with a heaping helping of Richardson’s vanilla ice cream. Dozens of additional pies made by volunteer bakers and vendors complement contest entries so that no one leaves with an empty belly.

This year’s best apple pie was baked by Noelle Rudloff in the adult division and Abigail Bowers in the youth division. Stephanie Tannian took second place this year and the mother-daughter team of Laura Bowers and Katherine Wall took third.

Down by the old one-room West Village Schoolhouse, where North Reading’s children once were educated, the Minit and Militia members were busy manning the grill to serve burgers and dogs to the hungry festival-goers. Years ago, the old schoolhouse was rescued from the West side of town by the Militia volunteers, painstakingly taken apart, numbered, and re-assembled on the Putnam House grounds. It was the start of decades of efforts by the members to bring back to life pieces of the history of rural farming communities like North Reading once was prior to the post-WWII building boom.

A few feet away, all the doors to the farm museum were wide open to display an impressive array of farming equipment. Many of these pieces of equipment had been used on farms in this town well into the 20th century— tractors and plows and corn huskers and things people today need to research on Google to figure out what it did. Some pieces were on loan to the Militia and others are part of the museum’s collection. Most of us could not begin to guess how to make these items work, which makes it all the more interesting when when a knowledgable Militiaman explains the Yankee ingenuity behind these masterpieces. These explanations were enhanced by videos played on a laptop propped on an overturned bucket, which provided quite contrast between the virtual and real worlds.

FESTIVAL-GOERS received top-notch service from not one but two Angelinas who volunteered to serve sliced apple pie topped with vanilla ice cream throughout the entire Apple Festival. At left is Angelina Ricciardelli and at right is Angelina Casciano. (Maureen Doherty Photo)

New this year was the cobbler’s shop, called the Shoe and Tine Shop, which was filled with hand-crafted tools of the trade. This shop joins other rebuilt treasures, including the town’s First Meeting House — which had been at the late Sidney Eaton’s house on Chestnut Street before it was brought to the Putnam House grounds and rebuilt – alongside the Flint House and the Garrison House. Members are working on the inside of the vast barn too.

Historical Society members greeted guests inside the 1720 Putnam House to provide tours of the historic home that made it possible for the North Parish of Reading to come to be once a pastor was supported by the community in Puritan New England.

Art winners

Combining the new with the old has been a winning combination for the Historical Society all these years.

Three lucky winners took home original artwork they had won in the art raffle. Hugo Wiberg won a photograph by Nancy Stewart entitled “Cradle of Liberty.” Cade Gaffrey won Anna Wong’s photograph entitled “Schwerin Castle, Germany.” Anne Valade won a watercolor by the late Nancy Goddard entitled “The White Tea Pot.”

DELICIOUS! Finley Allison, age 3, was very excited to eat a huge bowl of vanilla ice cream at Saturday’s Apple Festival put on by the Historical Society at the Putnam House. (Maureen Doherty Photo)DELICIOUS! Finley Allison, age 3, was very excited to eat a huge bowl of vanilla ice cream at Saturday’s Apple Festival put on by the Historical Society at the Putnam House.                     (Maureen Doherty Photo)

There were eight winners in the art silent auction. Elizabeth Adams was the lucky high bidder for an acrylic on canvas original by Suzanne Carroll Korn entitled, ironically, “The Elizabeth Adams Homestead.” Robert Croswell won the Peter Cain pastel “Ipswich River.” Amy Salomon was the high bidder on Peter Cain’s pastel “McKinley Brook.” Rosemary Jefferies was the winning bidder of the Cambia Davis watercolor “Maine Sunset.”

Also, Ellen Mague took home Meg Robertson’s photograph “Sankaty Head Light,” while Hugo Wiberg bid successfully on the Louise Anderson watercolor “North Reading Green.” Ginny Mills bid on the last two pieces, Audrey LaRosa’s acrylic “Flowers on the Rocks” and a watercolor, “Color Display” by Cambia Davis.

In blending an appreciation for the old way of life with modern life, the Apple Festival remains inviting to vendors of all stripes selling their wares alongside community groups looking to sign up new members and craftspeople displaying their talents.

The musical entertainment continues to grow too, representing a wide array of musical genres, from the opening music provided by the NRHS Marching Hornets and the youthful voices of the NRHS a cappella group NOTEorious and the brother and sister duo of Preston and Betsy Lydotes to the lovely voices of Senior Echoes, the chorus of seasoned citizens directed by Marsha Cutlip. Closing out the musical entertainment were the folk and Americana songs of Art Grossman and the soulful music of the Aldersgate UMC Praise Band.

A special treat was the talented performance of martial arts students from the Master Shin Marshal Arts Institute in Andover who combined teamwork and fearlessness with graceful precision as they flew through the air splitting boards with their hands and feet.

The overcast skies finally gave way to a shower late in the afternoon which forced the North Reading School of Ballet students to bow out of their performance on the lawn for safety reasons. The dancers had been waiting patiently inside the First Meetinghouse hoping that the show could go on. We know one thing is certain — there’s always next year as plans for the 26th annual Apple Festival are likely underway already.

All proceeds from the event benefit the ongoing preservation of the town’s unique history by the nonprofit North Reading Historical and Antiquarian Society.