The grounds of Wesley United Methodist Church, 8412 Richmond Avenue, Mount Vernon District, were filled last Saturday with peach treats, entertainment, games, educational instruction and plenty of free food for all who ventured by.
It was the church's fifth annual Peach Festival and it drew more than 500 attendees, according to Nancy Nixon, chair of the event.
"This is the biggest crowd we've ever had and we've added some new attractions," she said.
That assessment was buttressed by Pastor Tony Forstall, who arrived at Wesley UMC just before last year's festival, replacing the Rev. Teresa Smith, under who's guidance the festival was initiated. Born in the District of Columbia and raised in Alexandria, Forstall is a 1973 graduate of T.C. Williams High School. He also admits to being a former Gazette "paperboy" in the 1960s.
In addition to being the church minister, Forstall is also part of the festival's entertainment where he plays his guitar. "This is a great event and most of all we want everyone here to have a good time. We are a neighborhood church with over two-thirds of our members living within a mile of the church," he said.
"My first year here has been great. I love being back in Northern Virginia," he said. Prior to coming to Wesley UMC, Forstall served as pastor to Susanna Wesley Methodist Church in Gloucester County, Va.
"This year's festival seems better than last year. One of our added attractions is the addition of an exhibit by the local Boy Scout Troop which is almost as old as the church," he said. Overseeing that exhibit was Bill Convery, assistant scout master and chapter organizing representative.
Mount Vernon Troop 993 of Wesley UMC has approximately 50 registered scouts with about 30 to 35 attending regular meetings, according to Convery. "In many cases it's hard for parents to get the boys to the meetings given their work schedules," he said.
When asked about the recent Jamboree at Fort A.P. Hill, Convery said that members of Troop 993 attended by driving down for one day. "Since we are close enough to do that we didn't want to take space away from those further away," he said.
Each year the festival features a variety of peach deserts such as pies, cobbler, and peach ice cream sundaes all prepared from peaches supplied by Cherry Hill Farm and Orchard, Clinton, Md.
The peach delights were accompanied by charcoal-grilled hamburgers and hot dogs and variety of beverages.
In addition a variety of games and entertainment were provided by The Capital Harmonica Club, Nichols' Defense Academy, and Terry's School of Dance and Gymnastics. There was also a model train display by the National Capital Trackers, an informal group of model train enthusiasts from throughout the Washington Metropolitan Area. Members construct portable layout modules that are joined together to create large operating layouts for O-Gauge model trains. The display at the festival featured more than a dozen trains operating on a layout that stretched the length of the church's social room.
For the first time, this year's festival offered attendees the opportunity to purchase fresh peaches from Frye & Son Produce of Hedgesville, W.VA. There was also a children's bike rodeo sponsored and directed by the Mount Vernon Division of the Fairfax County Police Department's Bike Patrol designed to teach bike safety techniques.
The festival was created as part of the church's community outreach program, according to Nixon. "We hope people enjoy themselves, see old friends, make new friends, and eat some peaches," Forstall said.