On the third Saturday of August in 1994, a small group of local shopkeepers and townspeople combined their ideas and talents to present the very first Olde Tyme Peach Festival. Although the festival has grown and changed over the years, it remains an anticipated, enduring and enjoyable annual event. The following account was written by Nancy Kemble, owner of The Squirrel’s Nest, based on recent reminiscences by three of the originators of the festival, including Toni Meadowcroft, owner of The Glory Box, and Jean Elliot, owner of The Country Flair. Although Toni and Jean have moved on to other pursuits, Nancy continues to offer her iconic natural candies to worldwide customers.
Several weeks ago, three of the original creators of Middletown’s Peach Festival met to take a look back in time. Needless to say, we laughed thinking about a handful of us shop owners getting together to brainstorm. Who knew 20 years ago that the Peach Festival would become so successful?
We started meeting in the mornings before opening our shops, asking ourselves, “what could we do to draw people downtown?” Several things had previously been tried without the results we had intended. Our hope was once people visited Middletown, they would fall in love with our shops, return often, and our businesses would grow. We all knew empty stores do not make a healthy “downtown." More foot traffic was needed.
Looking at Middletown’s history, we discovered that the local peach orchards played a significant role in the economy of the area. Why not use that theme? So the idea of the Peach Festival was born.
A peach pie contest held at the Senior Center would bring Jean Birch director of the MOT Senior Center into our planning group. Her love for her home town would initiate the idea to give a donation of monies made by the festival to the Historical Society and or beautification of our downtown.
Why not have non-profits in the area as food vendors? The fee for their space would help the festival’s cause and monies made by these local non-profits would go right back into our community. To add to the fun we also included a few crafters. Entertainment at the Everett would allow a cool place for people to come in from the heat.
Peach colored balloons were put by the front door of each of our shops to let people know we were open and to stop by. T-shirts were designed and sold along with fresh peaches on the square by volunteers while a DJ made announcements. Raffles also helped raise money for the cause. For several years, there was even a hand-embroidered crazy quilt representing the Victorian era when peach orchards in Middletown were so plentiful.
Page 2 of 2 - The parade was small the first several years. Back then it started with a banner carried by two little girls dressed like old-fashioned paperboys, followed by Little Miss Peach blowing kisses and waving to the crowd. Sandwiched in were a few other willing participants plus the big parade attraction . . . our very own Middletown High School Marching Band!
From its modest roots to its current crowd-pleasing appeal, no one can deny the success of the Peach Festival. We hope you enjoy your day in Middletown!