• Tuesday , 12 December 2017

CiderFest Rules Fairmount Park’s Historic Houses in Philadelphia

Story, photos by Sharon Kozden

“The older I get, the more I become an
apple pie, sparkling cider kind of guy.”  – Scott Foley

What was Fairmount Park Conservancy thinking on the perfect autumnal afternoon in late September when introducing CiderFest, featuring cider samples from over 20 Pennsylvania cideries, self-guided tours of the six historic houses at Fairmount Park, free house-to-house transportation, live music and pay-as-you-go food trucks? I’d say they had their thinking caps spot-on with the aforementioned perfect confab of fall delights.

Proceeds from the event benefitted the “ongoing stewardship, maintenance and promotion of the Historic Houses of Fairmount Park.” That alone was more than enough for this itsy bitsy spider to drink from the cider spouts. The exceptionally well-organized program spelled out details about each house, including built-year, architectural-style, a taste of their history and the associated-stationed cideries along with their tasting notes. Kudos to the Conservancy and its sponsors on hosting a winner of an event. Here’s hoping CiderFest isn’t a one-hit wonder but a tradition instead.

To begin, the afternoon’s sky was a near scene-stealer, moody, dense and low-slung in its Wuthering Heights-like grandeur – a perfect backdrop for the stately, majestic houses of Cedar Grove, Laurel Hill Mansion, Lemon Hill Mansion, Mount Pleasant, Historic Strawberry Mansion and Woodford Mansion.

On entering, attendees were given a cider-sampling souvenir cup, almost demitasse in size, then sent on their way to roam and explore at will. No agenda. Eat, drink and tour at a leisurely pace. If you fancied one house more than another and chose to spend additional time there, no matter. The houses aren’t going anywhere anytime soon; you could always return for more. I found myself chatting with other guests and docents, running at the mouth and out of time before I could tour all six houses during the happening’s noon to 4:00 p.m. time-frame. Further reason to return!

Another forward-thinking benefit was the free shuttle service between houses provided by Phlash. Despite my sensible and comfy footwear, roaming the homes and imbibing mostly alcohol-infused ciders was the right thing to do to keep participants from an epic energy-suck. Food trucks and other available snacks were a plus, as most of us realize the perils of drinking on empty stomachs. Apples were the central theme, both of the ciders as well as the unique gifts for sale in one of the houses. Musical entertainment was as artfully varied as the fascinating cider subculture. Energetic bands and acoustic singer-songwriters played en plein air, while within the dwellings, more subdued yet no less beautiful and period-appropriate cello players, harpist Mindy Cutcher and classical guitarist Allen Krantz were crowd-pleasers.

Since I was covering the event as a photo-journalist, there were the requisite pictures to be taken. Check out below my pictorial journey, all intended to augment the memorable seasonal afternoon.


Well, hello moody-groovy! Where’s my Heathcliff, my Mr. Edward Rochester?


Writer Sharon Kozden models event wrist tag along with souvenir cider-tasting cup.


Line up for your choice of plentiful cider offerings.


Bethlehem, PA’s Hardball Cider at Mt. Pleasant featured the pictured Splitter, Curveball and Sunday Hop. It’s tasting notes were described as “strong apple flavor and a little added fizz.”


Bottles or cans? Take your pick. I’m cottoning to the bottles. How pretty they are with cider hues as viewed through glass.


Ploughman Cidery of Adam’s County’s Dornick cider, stationed at Laurel Hill Mansion, proffered tasting notes with “stony, pebbly quality, robust apple with aromas of strawberry, butterscotch and autumn leaves.” Yummers! Cute with the keychain bottle-openers–another souvenir.


Hiya once more, Ploughman cidery. Beautiful lineup of bottles with descriptor signage above.


Now that’s branding! Wyndridge Farm cidery of Dallastown, held its pouring station at Historic Strawberry Mansion.


These cider aficionados at Pennsylvania Cider Guild take seriously their craft and products!


Ladies sip and sit in colorful Adirondack chairs. Now that’s living!


The picture of perfection, clearly enjoying hanging ’round a white-picket fence and, yes, I want her hair!


Mmm: pork and hard cider, a most gustatory-pleasing combo.


The previously pictured food truck’s menu, and as usual, I am indecisive to the point of wanting one of each.


Sisig with garlic rice looks as flavorful as it does healthful. An energy-booster for certain. Whomever is feasting on this will have the stamina needed for the afternoon’s activities.


I’m with the band … but only for a snap and a brief listen. Not that Man About a Horse wasn’t All That, but I was on assignment.

Adorable-looking couples are among of my favorite subjects to photograph. They always seem happy to comply with my requests. True confession: I also think how much I hope they go the relationship distance.

Ditto on this cute couple and the similar hold-on-tightly secret thinking. It can be the proverbial jungle out there in the dating world.

Phlash gets us where we’re going in a flash.

What a fragrant and lovely welcoming. You were expecting strawberries?

Signage tell-tales Historic Strawberry Mansion history. Built in 1789, it boasts architecture of federal historical notes.

Kathy and Joe Weber of Edwardsville, IL pose lovingly before Laurel Hill Mansion. This house was built in 1800 in the Neo-classical/federal-style of architecture.

Sharon Kozden seated on Laurel Hill Mansion’s doorstep, surrounding by a beautiful display of fall décor and toting the charming souvenir cup.

Docent at Mt. Pleasant keeps listeners enthralled with interesting historical factoids. My go-to question is always about ghosts and hauntings. This Georgian beauty was built in 1765.


Longview at Mt. Pleasant exhibits tents and visitors with the presence of fallen leaves courtesy of Ma Nature.

Woodford Mansion, built in 1756. Architecture: Georgian with federal influences.

Impressive and authentically historic identifying sign.

Sharon Kozden pictured with guide. Ours is quite the sartorial juxtaposition. He seemed surprised when I told him he favored John Hurt. Am I the only one who notices somewhat-similar features?

Sneak-peek at one of the house’s interior stunning rooms and décor. I won’t inundate with inside photos; you’ll have to see them to believe their historically accurate appointments.

As I’m a girl, you’re going to see a dolly. She looks nothing like my three American Girl dolls that I am not shy to admit have not yet been stuffed into a closet.

I’ll just die if I can’t lay down upon this quilt in this rocking wooden cradle my beloved Maine Coon kitten, although he’d probably be more interested in poking around in the kindling, rambunctious boy that he is.

Time to shop for unique treasure, and this is the period-stylin’ lady who’s displaying and selling the mansion’s wares.

Cray-cray cat lady here wants! Shea butter-imbued and cat-marketed soap, haven’t you heard, is the latest anti-aging skin product. Must. Inform. Esthetician.

Much like the featured ciders’ tasting notes, this Tom Petty-loving American Girl found the perfect ending NOTE for my article in this Betsy Ross colonial flag.

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