The fourth time that was the charm for Wesley United Methodist Church's Annual Peach Festival. Last Saturday's picture perfect weather matched the enthusiasm that swelled the crowd to new heights.
In addition to the many peach desserts, hot dogs and hamburgers, face painting, children's games and crafts, local dancers and musicians, there was a special added attraction this year: A new minister, and a guitar-playing one at that.
Tony Forstall, a native Alexandrian, became the church's new pastor on June 23. He replaced the Rev. Teresa Smith, who received a new assignment.
"I was born in the District of Columbia but raised in Alexandria, and I'm a 1973 graduate of T.C. Williams," Forstall said, strumming his guitar. "I was also a former Gazette paperboy back in the '60s."
Before entering the ministry, Forstall worked for the Virginia Alcohol Beverage Control Board and then was a wine salesman for a local wine wholesaler from 1983 to 1987. In 1988, at the age of 31, Forstall decided to enter the ministry.
"God tells you to do it. That's what makes the decision. If you don't have God on your side in this business it's not the thing to do," Forstall said.
His first pulpit was in Chase City, in Virginia's West Mecklenberg County. From there he was assigned to churches in Stafford County and Newport News. Right before his present assignment, Forstall served as pastor to Susanna Wesley Methodist Church in Gloucester County, Va.
"The Bishop decides where we go and for how long. There's no rule of thumb for our length of stay. We stay as long as reasonable," he said.
"I really like it here in the Alexandria area. I'm back home. And, this neighborhood is really cool," Forstall said. Wesley United Methodist Church is located at 8412 Richmond Avenue in the Mount Vernon District. Forstall and his wife Mary Ruth have three children — Charlotte, 19, Joey, 11, and Elizabeth, 9.
Wesley United is entering the last month of their year-long 50th Anniversary Celebration. The actual anniversary date was this past April. Events will culminate on the second Sunday in September with the sealing of a time capsule. "It'll be opened on the 100th anniversary," Forstall said.
Nearly 500 participants at the 2004 Peach Festival enjoyed the camaraderie as well as the free food and beverages throughout the three-and-a-half hour event.
THERE WERE GAMES and activities for both children and adults. These were complemented by entertainment supplied by local musicians and dancers.
The highlight of the event is self-explanatory: Various peach dishes filled an entire tent. There were cobblers, pies, slices, and myriad other homemade delicacies all centered on peaches, including an annual favorite, peach sundaes.
"This year our peaches ripened right on time," said Nancy Nixon, co-chair of the annual event. In 2003 there was a near disaster when the usual supplier of peaches was unable to do so due to late ripening.
Peaches for this year's festival were supplied by Cherry Hill Farm and Orchard, 12300 Gallahan Road, Piscataway, Md. The orchard is owned and operated by the Gallahan family.
"This event is part of our community outreach program. We want people to get to know us," Nixon said. "We have 15 people who do the baking every year."