The fair begins Thursday, Oct. 6. For more information, visit the Cumming Fairgrounds website.
CUMMING -- The subtle ferment of mulled cider wafts through the Cumming Fairgrounds, the sweet juice of the pressed apples dripping into collection buckets below.
Slate Amos now runs the cider press, though Catherine and Pete frequent the Cumming Country Fair & Festival yearly, joining their son and his family in the throngs of the event’s hustle and bustle.
Though the Mashburn/Amos cider press has been a staple in Heritage Village for as long as the fair has been around, Marcus Mashburn Jr., was the man behind the original press, the one who planted the seeds of the orchard behind his house on Veteran’s Memorial Blvd.
For years, he also ran a stand in Forsyth County that sold apples, cider and fried pies each fall.
Mashburn, a doctor, had a fondness of farming, which is what first prompted him to grow an orchard, said his daughter, Catherine Amos.
“In the late 1960s, he planted apple trees behind his house,” she said. “He had several different varieties and peaches and just loved them.
When he planted them, we said ‘Daddy, what are you goin’ to do with all these apples?’ and he said ‘well if I only plant a couple of trees, I’m going to take care of them [myself], but if I plant 300, I’ll take care of them’ — in other words, that’s a good excuse to buy a new tractor.”
By the time the apple tress had reached maturation, the Mashburn children were already through college and working, but Amos fondly remembers the weekends she and her siblings sold apples and cider at her father’s stand.
“My sisters and brothers were all in different places in Atlanta and around and they were working, so on the weekends, we would take turns selling apples at the stand,” she said. “We would pick and sell apples, then [during] the week, we’d do our work.”
The stand didn’t always sell cider, though, said Amos; that venture began in the early 1980s.
“We had a small press that would make about a hundred gallons, and then we enjoyed that so much and Dad enjoyed that so much that he went on and bought the press we have now,” she said.
Though Mashburn and his children had stopped selling apples and making cider a few years before the fair began, he loved the event and brought the press back out when the fair came around.
“He wanted to have it at the fair for people to see,” said Amos. “He was so enthusiastic about the fair, he loved the fair, he loved the whole thing — that Cumming was going to have a fair again. He and Bud Thomas worked it, getting the cider press there and all set up.”
“We were able to start it up again at the fair and that’s the only time we make cider now,” she added.
In the past two decades, operation of the press has been passed down to Amos, who then passed the tradition down to Slate.
And while the family has “let the orchard go,” as Amos puts it, the cider press continues to be a fair staple, one she hopes will continue.
“We still help [Slate,] but it’s basically his business now — he calls the shots,” she said. “But as long as [the fair] will have us, we’ll be there.”