CENTRAL SQUARE – For the past 36 years, the Lioness Club has been hosting Apple Festival, the most recent being Sept. 27-29.
Each year between 20,000 and 25,000 people come to the Brewerton Speedway, where it is held, throughout the three days for food, rides, live music, vendors and activities.
“This is our largest fundraiser,” said club President Denise Porter. “All the proceeds that we raise go then to our local community… This allows us to give to all the local organizations.”
Other local non-profit organizations have booths as well.
The money raised goes to charities, including local food pantries, schools, ambulance and emergency services and libraries.
Porter said the Lioness Club started Apple Festival one year before they became an official club in 1984 with 32 members. It started out small in a park with just a few vendors and has since grown to require the speedway as space.
Porter’s mother was a Lioness and so she joined the club as well. She began helping with the Apple Festival 24 years ago. At that time, there were 56 vendors and now there are about 200, which includes food, commercial and handmade items.
Fruit Valley orchard offered a variety of apples and preserved foods for sale right at the entrance.
“I enjoy the vendors the most,” Porter said. “They all have varied items and they are very nice, always have a story to tell.”
Lioness Club is the largest women’s service organization in the world and is stemmed from the umbrella of Lions Club International. There are over 1.4 million members worldwide in 44,000 communities. It began as a group for the wives of Lions Club members but was opened up to any woman 18 or over in 1975.
Porter said her chapter, located in Central Square, is always looking for new members to join. There are board meetings on the first Tuesday of the month and general dinner meetings on the third Thursday of the month.
“Our mission is to create and foster a spirit of understanding among all people for humanitarian needs by providing voluntary services through community involvement and cooperation. We serve but are not limited to the area covered by the Central Square School District,” according to the Lioness Club webpage.
Sheila Millen is in charge of the lottery tree raffle, one of their fundraising methods they use throughout the year. After the passing of her husband, she went to Hope For Bereaved where she met her friend, Nancy who then got her into the club in 2001.
“I like how they give back to the community,” Millen said.
Next year’s apple festival already has its set dates – Sept. 25-27, 2020.