This article will have no peach puns in it. I promise.
For the first time the Wyoming Peach Festival and the Fifer Orchards Customer Appreciation Day celebrations are going separate ways.
It’s an amicable parting, noted Jaci Stokes and Mike Fennemore. Stokes has helped organize Wyoming’s salute to the prunus persica since its inception in 1990 and Fennemore, retail operations manager for Fifer Orchards, said the orchard has acknowledged its customers since 1980.
The town decided to celebrate on Saturday, Aug. 6, with Fifer following on Aug. 13 because both have become so popular.
“We agreed it was best to move our Customer Appreciation Day to a separate date to reduce traffic congestion and safety concerns,” Fennemore said.
“It was a mutual decision,” Stokes confirmed. “One of the problems we’ve been having is traffic control. Things were starting to get out of control.”
But fear not: both days will feature fun and lots of things to do.
What’s up in Wyoming
Wyoming’s celebration runs from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. and kicks off with a parade down Camden-Wyoming Avenue. Immediately following at 10 a.m. Dover High School’s Rolling Thunder Drumline will perform feats of perfect percussion.
Wyoming’s own Peach Festival Band is next. They’re sure to be a crowd-pleaser, Stokes said.
“They’re people who have played in bands before and who want to keep playing,” she said. Music teacher Dave Delong has molded current and former musicians into a marching band so good that other towns have asked them to come and play.
“We’ve always told them ‘no,’” Stokes said. “They’re exclusive.”
Other acts include puppeteer Jack Foraker and Wilmington’s Delirious Rush band.
“We’ve also got about 40 to 45 crafters from all over, and food vendors, including one serving vegan dishes; that’s new this year,” she said.
Fifer Orchards’ Aug. 13 Customer Appreciation Day begins at 10 a.m. and runs through 4 p.m.
Famed for peach ice cream -- tasty and free -- Fifer’s asks for a nominal donation for local FFA or 4-H chapters. The ice cream is made by the Woodside Farm Creamery in Hockessin using Fifer’s top-secret recipe. Several dozen volunteers take shifts scooping out the ice cream.
Activities during the day will include hayrides, pony and tractor-train rides, face painting and a farm animal exhibit. Local food trucks and other vendors will be out in force. A noontime ceremony will mark the crowning of this year’s Peach Queen and Peach Princess.
A best guess at attendance figures climbs into the thousands.
“It’s hard to say how many people attend because we don’t charge admission to the farm,” Fennemore said.
Although this season’s peach crop is smaller than average, the fruit is larger than normal, Fennemore said. No one need worry that there won’t be enough to go around.
“We’re very thankful for all the delicious peaches we’re picking daily and look forward to harvesting peaches through early September,” he said.
What’s better than cold ice cream?
Fifer’s Customer Appreciation Day predates Wyoming’s festival by a decade, and is not, strictly speaking, an homage to the peach. Fennemore’s mother-in-law, Helen Fifer, came up with the idea of using one special day a year to thank loyal customers. Fifer reasoned there’s no better way to fix a hot August day than a scoop of cold peach ice cream, Fennemore said.
Wyoming’s Peach Festival had its genesis with the formation of the Wyoming Historical Commission in 1984, with then-Mayor Nancy Tieman and town resident Kay Wood Bailey leading the charge.
Peach orchards once covered thousands of acres in Kent County; the fruit and the railroad became the symbols of the town’s heyday. Historians note a record 56 railroad cars filled with iced peaches sent to markets outside Delmarva in 1883.
Sponsored by the historical commission, the first peach festival was a relatively small affair that included a lecture, “Architecture and the Coming of the Railroad to Wyoming,” wagon rides, antiques and a classic car show. The first Peach Princess was 8-month-old Lauren Przybylinski of Felton.
As for holding the festival on Fifer’s customer appreciation day, “We thought it was a good idea at the time, and we went with it,” Tieman said.
Because the Peach Festival will mean increased traffic in the small town, Wyoming Police Department Lt. Charles Groce said everyone will need to be aware of the roads to be blocked off and special traffic patterns. The four-man department will be complemented by fire police to direct traffic.
Free parking is at Simpson Elementary School and Wyoming United Methodist Church, with free shuttle bus to the railroad station, the center of events. Handicap parking is at the Pippin Funeral Home.
The department will direct traffic the following weekend during Fifer’s Customer Appreciation Day, Groce said.
Even if the celebrations aren’t the same day, their meaning remains the same.
“I think it’s the same focus today as it was then,” Tieman said. “It draws people into the community, it shows off the community and it shows what kind of community we are.”