Same menu, new venue for Heilman’s fair food
UPPER FAIRFIELD TWP – Nowhere on the many roads leading to and from the Heilman Church will anyone meet the pie-man going to the fair. There is however, a place to taste his wares, and many did just that on Saturday, August 8 at the church grounds in Upper Fairfield Township.
The change in venue came after 40 years at the Lycoming County Fair, where beneath the grandstand volunteers served the church’s country fare. Among reasons given for the change was that many of the volunteers continue to age, the nine-day long event requires two crews, one to man the stand and another preparing food back home. And at the fair grounds, it was learned the church group was expected to finance the much needed upgrade in electricity.
With all things considered, the decision was made to host a day long event so clientele could enjoy their fill of Heilman fair food, especially the home made pies.
At the church site between Huntersville and Farragut, a pavilion protected two rows of tables. Sporadically, individuals moved among the crowd, chatting with clusters of people giving the event a community-like atmosphere. At least two types of people were identified. The first group were natives, now seniors who moved away and were represented by the former Gast sisters, and then there were the current youthful residents represented by the Roger Bower family.
The Gast sisters, Ethel Hocker of rural Montoursville, and Lillian Horn of Montoursville Borough, returned for the day to the church of their childhood. Lillian said, “Until marriage, we lived about three miles away from the church on a farm and were the only children of Arthur and Rossana (Entz) Gatz. I especially remember Children’s Day here. In June we walked here to practice marching drills around the inside of the church,” Lillian said. The former resident also recalled that one service a year was held in the grove. “At picnics, we watched women roll lemons on a table before slicing and putting into crocks for lemonade. From Griggs Store in Montoursville, bags of roasted peanuts were brought and scattered on the ground. Children picked them up to see who gathered the most,” Lillian said.
Reminiscing about the Heilman stand at the fair, the sisters said they had gone the first 30 years or so to the fair, but had been unable to attend in recent years. “We appreciate the food served here; it’s easier for us to come and go. My favorite from the menu are the cream pies,” Lillian said.
Across the table, Roger Bower had finished his meal and was savoring a slice of rhubarb pie. “It has just the right balance of sweet and tart,” he said. The Bower family resides in nearby Mill Creek Township where Roger is a township employee. With Bower was wife Angie, daughter Kelsey and mother-in-law, Dee Sones.
For the past three years, Kelsey, a sophomore at Hughesville High School, and sister Shania were among the volunteer help at the fair stand. “We waited tables and I enjoyed it very much,” Kelsey said. The Bower sisters had been recruited by their former baby sitters, Ann Hall and Norma Zeisloft.
Sones said, “At the fair stand, I liked that you could sit down and were served. There was a large seating area and regardless of wether they knew you or not, all the volunteers were friendly.”
This year when the Bowers attended the fair, they found the former Heilman space empty. “We knew they wouldn’t be there, but it was a surprise to a lot of folks who were disappointed. We told them about the new date and place,” Angie said.
In addition to ads in newspapers, the event was noised about among Heilman’s sister churches. Former pastor Connie Waugh, now at Clarkstown, had announced it at her church. Noted as from the Huntersville church who came were members, Carolyn Hall, daughters Carmen Shoemaker and Penny Booth and Paul Burkhart.
Entertainment was provided by Fred and Vivian (Reeder) Welsh, a husband and wife vocal duo with Fred furnishing accompaniment on his guitar. The couple are among the church’s eight member choir and part of the 40-member congregation.
If success is gauged by the amount of food remaining, then it was successful. Serving hours were from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m. and an hour before closing, the supply of baked beans, potato salad and elderberry pie was exhausted.
Looking forward to 2016, Mrs. Welsh said, “We’ll do it again and hope to add a more festival-like atmosphere by adding children’s games. Other than that, a set date and time remains to be worked out,”
To locate the church, program your GPS for 2792 Kehrer Hill Road, Montoursville, and follow directions. According to Lillian Horn, “Its a lovely drive through the countryside.”