Artisan Festival the apple of crafters’ and pie-lovers’ eyes

It’s Columbus Day weekend, and for the past 10 years, that has brought dozens of local artists together under one roof, at the Bethany Beach Volunteer Fire Company’s Artisan Festival.

In celebration of that anniversary — and because, well, everyone loves pie — the fire company auxiliary is bringing back its famous apple crumb pies for the occasion.

The baking of the pies, however, has presented a bit of a challenge lately, because the fire company ovens have been a bit off, according to Ladies’ Auxiliary president Kristin Steele. So the folks at Papa Grande’s restaurant in Fenwick Island have stepped up and offered the use of their ovens, for the good of the order.

Friday morning, the ladies’ auxiliary will begin baking several dozen pies at Papa Grande’s. Another area business, T.S. Smith Orchards, donates the apples for the pies, according to Steele. Orchard owner Matt Smith takes care of the fire company’s apple needs every year, she said. And the pies have been so popular in the past that they have sold out within an hour of the festival’s start.

In addition to the pies, Steele herself will be making apple dumplings on the day of the festival — at the fire house. She said she is able to use different ovens for the dumplings, so there need be no fears of dumpling disasters.

As for the festival’s namesake artisans, Steele said there are 56 artisans signed up this year, and the festival will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 7. Most of the artisans will be inside the fire hall, and in the case of rain, all the artists will be able to move into the fire hall, Steele said.

So popular is the event with local crafters, Steele said, she has a “long waiting list” of even more vendors hoping for a spot. Over the last decade, the festival artisans have offered a variety of creations, ranging from pottery, glassware, jewelry, painted wood, knitted and quilted items, wooden toys and baskets to clothing, bath products, floral arrangements, seasonal items and a variety of artwork.

Each artist provides a piece for the event’s ticket auction, in which festivalgoers can purchase chances to win the items.

Proceeds from the auction are used by the fire company for needed items. Steele said that two years ago, thanks to the festival, the fire company was able to purchase a Chevrolet Suburban that is used to transport fire company members to the Delaware fire school and other meetings across the state.

Steele said fundraisers, such as the Artisan Festival, are crucial to the fire company — even more so now that fire companies are receiving less funding from the State and the County.

“It cushions the blow,” she said of positive impact of the festival, as well as contributions such as those from businesses like Papa Grande’s and T.S. Smith Orchards.

Admission to the festival is free, and with parking meter season over in Bethany Beach, free parking will also be plentiful throughout the town.