Despite what you may have seen on social media, the Apple Scrapple Festival is still happening. Bridgeville’s annual celebration of local produce — apples and the beloved pork product scrapple — is set for Oct. 8-9, as scheduled.
The reason a rumor to the contrary got started was that a church in Federalsburg, Maryland had a Facebook event scheduled that looked a lot like the official Apple Scrapple page.
Karen Johnson, executive chairperson of the event, said organizers contacted the church about the lookalike event, and the church took it down, not considering that the thousands of people signed up to attend would then see the event as canceled. Johnson and other local officials then fielded dozens of inquiries about the festival’s status.
“We understand that they didn’t mean harm,” Johnson said. They've been getting the word out on social media, including the event’s official Facebook page, that it’s very much on.
Like a slew of other events, Apple Scrapple was actually canceled in 2020 because of COVID-19. That’s why this year will be the 29th annual festival instead of the 30th. Johnson said the festival has made some accommodations with the food vendors to allow for more space and distancing, and masks will be required on public buses per CDC guidelines.
There’s been a slight reduction in vendors, she said, but there are still plenty at more than 300.
“We’re trying to do everything we can to continue the atmosphere of the Apple Scrapple festival,” she said, and they have the full support of the town of Bridgeville.
The festival is a major event in the area. It started in 1992 as a way to boost tourism and celebrate local business, notably the T.S. Smith and Sons orchard and Rapa scrapple, which is manufactured in town. The numbers on attendance are a little imprecise. The event’s website says 2,500 came the first year, while a newspaper article from 1993 had it at 7,000. We can safely say quite a few people came, and organizers estimate as many as 20,000 at later events.
In the event’s first year, organizer Linda Kapla told the News Journal, “City people usually think of Bridgeville as that little town on U.S. 13 you drive through on the way to the beach — we’re much more than that.”
Johnson said they haven’t done a formal study on the economic impact, but she estimates the festival brings in more than $250,000 just to the local economy. It’s also a major fundraiser for local nonprofits and other groups, including the Bridgeville Library, local fire companies and youth organizations like school music boosters.
While there’s much more available at the festival than just apples and scrapple, visitors will be able to find plenty of dishes like apple dumplings and apple crisp, and scrapple sandwiches.
Scrapple is a popular regional favorite, a sort of pork-heavy evolution of cornmeal mush. Even its name suggests that it does not always feature the most prime parts of the pig, but devotees don’t care. It’s fried and served in a variety of ways, sometimes topped with ketchup or syrup, and has a large and dedicated fan group on Facebook called the Scrapple Trail.
“The big sellout every single year is just slabs of scrapple, fried till crispy, between two slices of white bread,” Johnson said. They have multiple booths selling this simple sandwich and have added an extra booth this year.
The event actually begins with a carnival on Thursday night, Oct. 7, then there’s an opening ceremony Friday evening and the Little Miss Apple Scrapple Pageant. Saturday features vendors, live music and a car show, along with the carnival rides and food.
There’s also the “Mayoral Scrapple Fling” for area elected officials and town managers. It’s an unusual competition that Johnson had a little trouble describing, although she emphasized that the scrapple is given proper respect and not actually flung anywhere. Reporter James Fisher described the game in 2012 as like shuffleboard, but with a package of scrapple, which perhaps explains why it hasn’t caught on nationally.
You can see it for yourself in a few weeks, or just stop by to get a scrapple sandwich on white bread, which is apparently what draws the crowds.
Thursday, Oct. 7
4-9 p.m. Hometown Carnival
Friday, Oct. 8
4 p.m. Festival opens
6 p.m. Opening ceremony
6:30-7:30 p.m. Little Miss Apple Scrapple Pageant
8-10:30 p.m. Friday night street dance
Saturday, Oct. 9
9 a.m. Festival opens with crafters and vendors; DJ: J&B Entertainment
10:30 a.m. Judy Sings the Blues
12:30 p.m. Cathy Gorman
2-2:45 p.m. Mayoral Scrapple Sling
3-4:30 p.m. Vintage Blue Bluegrass Band
5-6:30 p.m. Randy Lee Ashcraft and the Salt Water Cowboys
7:30-10:00 p.m. Charlie and the Cooltones
On Thursday and Friday, visitors can get a $20 ticket for all the carnival rides. On Saturday tickets are $2 each, or a family pack of 20 tickets for $20 or 40 tickets for $30, per the event website.
For GPS reference to get to the right area, you can use 101 North Main Street, Bridgeville, which is the location of town hall. Streets in Bridgeville are open for parking Friday night. On Saturday, DelDOT and fire police will direct traffic to parking lots. Free bus shuttle service is available on Saturday only.