Back And Boiling

Annual Apple Butter Festival Returns To Sunnyside

Posted: September 25, 2013

Sunnyside Retirement Community resident Mary Yarnell, 79, takes a turn stirring apple butter with other volunteers Sept. 19. (Photo by Nikki Fox / DN-R)
Sunnyside Retirement Community resident Jim Nelson, 79, stirs a kettle of apple butter with other volunteers Sept. 19. (Photo by Nikki Fox / DN-R)
It’s the time of year again, apple butter is back and boiling. To celebrate the turn of the season, the Sunnyside Retirement Community will be holding its annual Apple Butter Festival from 9 a.m-1 p.m. Sept. 28 on Sunnyside Drive in Harrisonburg.

The four-hour event will include activities, vendors, food and live entertainment for the local community.

Fall Flavor
The roots of the festival date back to the 1971, when Sunnyside Retirement Community opened a bazaar with homemade goods and crafts. Rather labor intensive, the facility ended the bazaar replacing it with a gift shop called Sunny Treasures open throughout the year. This eventually sparked the idea to hold a one-day extravaganza, themed around apple butter.

“Apple butter is a fall theme,” says Joni Runzo, a representative of Sunnyside Retirement Community. “So many locals make apple butter due to all of the apple orchards out here.”

Apple butter is a form of apple sauce, which is cooked slowly using apples combined with cider, water, and various other spices. Due to the slow-cooking process, concocting apple butter can be a day-long process.

On Sept. 19, Sunnyside participants spent close to 14 hours making 400 pints of apple butter. The apple butter will be bottled up and available for purchase on the day of the event.

Sunnyside resident Alex Banks has been with the community for the last five years, and was one of the residents who helped stir the apple butter.

“This is a great fall festival,” says Banks, a former grocery retail manager. “Initially, it was geared towards resident families, but has since expanded for the local community.”

Banks says that the festival initially received a tremendous amount of help from local churches, who provided a kettle of apple butter, along with a significant amount of volunteers.

Though the help was much appreciated, Banks says it caused the residents to feel a bit left out of the mix. Given that it is the Sunnyside Apple Butter Festival, they felt the Sunnyside residents should be the ones running the event.

Over the last three years, the festival has been 100 percent led by the Sunnyside community, and the residents are the ones who step up to the plate when it comes to cooking and organizing.

Community Effort, Community Benefit
Nearly everything available at the festival — including clothes and furniture — has been donated by the 600 residents of Sunnyside. The clothing and white elephant sale will be held in the Sunnyside room of the Eisland & Pannill Center, while the furniture sale will be held in the storage unit at the bottom of the property.

“Residents downsize,” says Tammy Steele, Activities and Volunteer Services Director at Sunnyside. “When moving, they have stuff left over and they don’t know what to do with it all.”

That’s where the festival comes into play. Ninety percent of the goods belonged to a resident, family member of a resident, or staff member. This event will be similar to a large-scale yard sale.

There will also be a craft section with holiday items for individuals to prepare for the upcoming season, which were entirely hand-made by the local residents.

There will be a goodies section filled with delicious treats such as apple pies, peach cobbler, cookies, and brownies — all homemade by the residents — along with a café, which will include donuts, hot dogs, and popcorn.

The festival will also allow for local vendors, or home show businesses, to come out and sell their business items to the community. This year, Miche Bag will be the main vendor at the festival.

“There’s going to be something for everyone,” says Runzo. “We have one vendor who is bringing children’s books for a really big discount and for the ladies, we will have vendors that sell scarves and jewelry.”

The festival is sponsored by the Sunnyside Treasures Committee, who help run the Sunnyside Treasures gift shop that is located on the property.

“The festival is a nice fall theme for the community,” says Marianne Hinkle, Chairman of the Sunnyside Treasures Committee. “It’s an effort to raise funds and support the local residents.”

The funds benefit the residents in one form or another. The Sunnyside Treasures Committee take the money that is raised and disperses it to various groups, including the library and fellowship funds, as well as the activities team.

“We want as many people to come out as possible,” says Steele. “Everything is at a discounted price and it all goes to a good cause. That’s the most important thing.”

Banks echoes these sentiments.

“We hope to continue to grow,” says Banks. “It went from being an event where people are cooking and selling apple butter, to much more than that.

“We’ve come a long way.”

For more information about the Apple Butter Festival, contact Sunnyside Retirement Community at 568-8200.

Contact Matt Gonzales at 574-6265 or

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