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40th Annual Fenton Applefest Opens to the Public

St. John Catholic School students are among the first to get in.

Children from gathered around the Rev. David Harvey for a blessing before hurrying off to enjoy the As Harvey, dressed in black with a porkpie hat, led the group in prayer, clouds uncovered the sun.

Volunteers brightened as well, and the festival opened Thursday afternoon.

is a chance to meet many people and see many one doesn't usually see, said Dave McDermott, who is one-half of this year's new General Chaircouple. The McDermotts moved to Fenton six years ago from New Jersey. Sara McDermott grew up in Linden, and their family returned to her hometown area. It's the McDermotts' first year as General Chaircouple, after four years of coordinating the pancake breakfast and chicken dinner, and holding the appreciation party before that.

"It's exciting. Things have gone pretty well," McDermott said of the added responsibilities.

In addition to some new bands, a new dessert (apple dumplings), and added raffle prizes, Applefest's favorite attractions return.

"We have the winning formula," he said. "We like to maintain that family-friendly, festival feeling."

Applefest carnival vendor Skerbeck Brothers has provided entertainment there for more than 20 years, said C.J. Skerbeck. Her husband, Bill Skerbeck, is the fifth generation to work with the carnival. C.J. and Bill Skerbeck are partners with his brother Joe Skerbeck and wife, Debbie Skerbeck.

"We really like coming to Fenton," C.J. Skerbeck said. "This is one of our favorite festivals. Applefest has a very good committee.

"We are Catholic. I can go to church right here."

Skerbeck Brothers, of Escanaba, provide carnival rides and games for many church festivals, she said. They also are carnival vendors at eight fairs. And their children and grandchildren ride the carnival attractions.

"We definitely don't cut corners," she said.

As Harvey's blessing concluded, families went to enjoy the festival, which will be open through Sunday.

John Peters, 6, said he was ready to "ride the Gravitron." John also helps out at Applefest with the kiddie games, said his mother, Heather Peters, who is part of the chaircouple organizing volunteers.

Kiddie games are under a tent at the front of the grounds, Dave McDermott said. Children can try their hand and collect tickets to redeem for prizes.

"It's nice for the little kids," he said. "They all get a prize."

And the group running the doll booth, where participants draw a lollipop to look for a winner, have donated a new raffle prize — an American Girl doll, McDermott said.

For adults, the Attic Treasures sale has added a room for high end, antique types of items, he added.

Doris Reynolds, of Byron, waited for the Attic Treasures tent to open. She's found books, a lot of glassware and religious items at previous sales, Reynolds said.

Her favorite part of Applefest is the pie.

"I have to have a pie before I leave," she said.

Officer will be laid to rest

As he led his Applefest blessing, Harvey asked everyone to remember a Fenton family in the parish who grieves, and to pray for the family of Officer Patrick O'Rourke, the who was killed in the line of duty Sunday. O'Rourke's funeral will take place at St. John Catholic Church Friday morning, as his wife and children will lay their husband and father to rest, Harvey said.

On Friday, for the funeral, Applefest volunteers will open the midway tents for those who cannot find a space in the church, said McDermott, of the Applefest General Chaircouple. As many as 4,000 might attend.

"We're happy we'll be here to help," he said.

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