Mock-turtle soup, grape pie and other traditions of the Fryburg Homecoming Festival were upheld Sunday evening at St. John’s Catholic Church.
More than $10,000 worth of prizes and raffles were available at the festival, but one of the most popular was a small painting of a winter scene.
The late Rev. Lawrence Tebbe was the leader at St. John’s Catholic Church for 34 years. During his time there, he was known for his paintings that he gave as gifts to members of his congregation.
The painting for raffle at the festival this year was previously a wedding gift from Tebbe to the late Goldie and John Webber in 1944.
Richard Etzkorn, who signed up for the raffle, said he already has a painting of a water scene by Tebbe at home in his living room. He said the painting, which he won in a previous raffle, has a special meaning to him.
“Father Tebbe was a jolly old guy,” Etzkorn said. “Everybody he met, he got along with.”
Martha Baker, 65, is Tebbe’s niece.
“He was a very kind person,” Baker said. “He was always teaching you something.”
Baker said Tebbe studied many different topics, including astrology and nature. She said this knowledge influenced his paintings.
Along with the paintings, Baker said her uncle was also interested in construction work, particularly stone work. She said he built the building next to the church, along with many fireplaces. She said he also painted the inside décor of the church.
“He had his hand in a lot of different projects,” Baker said.
Baker said Tebbe is responsible for the mock-turtle soup at the festival.
“The story goes that it was his mother’s recipe,” Baker said.
Baker said her mother, who would have been Tebbe’s sister, cooked the soup many times a year for her family. Anytime someone brought home turtles, they would be eating soup for dinner.
Baker said Tebbe substituted another meat for the turtle due to cost — and the tradition began.
Measuring approximately 50 yards in length, the line for mock-turtle soup could not be missed. While making his way to the beginning of the long wait, Jim Harpest, 73, said there was nothing better at the fair than the mock-turtle soup.
Harpest said he has been coming to the festival for mock-turtle soup for 6 years.
“I don’t know what meat they have in there,” Harpest said, “but it tastes like turtle.”
Obviously the biggest draw to the fair, workers could be seen stirring, pouring, and jarring the soup for customers.
While Harpest and most of the other customers at the festival did not know the ingredients of the mock-turtle soup, Albert Steinke, of Fryburg, said it is a family secret that began 123 years ago.
Married into the family, Steinke said he has been cooking mock-turtle soup for 59 years. He mentioned he remembered Fr. Tebbe saying to him when he got married, “this is a good place for you.”
Steinke said they began cooking the main ingredient at 4 a.m. He said all of the ingredients in the soup are made fresh the day of the festival.
While main ingredient is one every one of the family members could agree on, other ingredients varied depending on the chef.
Egg, spices, potatoes and onions were all said to be ingredients in the soup. However, none of the chefs would disclose the “secret ingredient.”
Second only to the mock-turtle soup tent, the workers at the bake sale were kept busy cutting pies and scooping ice cream.
Denise Limbert has been organizing the bake sale at the church for 20 years, calling it a “family thing.”
Limbert said every parish member donated two pies to the sale, which added up to about 180 pies.
The pies varied from the traditional apple, peach and cherry to the unique razzleberry and sugar cream. Surprisingly, Limbert said the pie most people asked for was grape.
“We have a really nice selection this year,” Limbert said.
At $2 a slice, Limbert said she expected to sell out of all of the pies.
Limbert said her family members helped her with the sale.
“It’s a fun, family event,” Limbert said.
While there is not an official contest for the best pie at the festival, Limbert said her son, Tyler, enjoy choosing his favorite.
“He is a pie connoisseur,” Limbert said.
Tyler, 22, said the entire selection of pies looked good, but he knew his favorite.
“I bought Mrs. Ruppert’s peach pie,” Tyler said, “and I’m not sharing.”
Pie was not the only dessert available at the festival. Also for sale were cookies, ice cream and coffee. All proceeds benefitted the church.
New to the festival this year was the corn hole tournament. Organizing the tournament were Jesse Limbert, 25, and Denver Davis, 22. The two said the idea came to them last year during clean-up of the festival, while they were thinking of new activities to bring in for the following year.
“We just ran with it,” Limbert said. “It seems like people like it. It’s a lot of fun.”
He said participants in the corn hole tournament have had a positive reaction, and he expects more people to sign up next year.
Half the proceeds for the tournament benefitted St. Johns, and the other half was given as a cash prize to the winners of the tournament.