Bountiful harvest 

There are few things more old-fashioned than a cane grinding. At Oatland Island Education Center, cane grinding is lifted to an art form every fall with an annual annual cane grinding festival.

But this year’s festival comes with a new spin -- it’s now the Cane Grinding and Harvest Festival. The festival will be held Saturday, Nov. 12 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Aromas of cane syrup, corn bread and other harvest foods will fill the air.

“We try to make everything we do educational,” says Oatland Island Director Martha McIlveene. “We decided to take a different slant this year and focus on the harvest.”

That means more attention will be made to the bounties of the harvest -- especially apples.

“We’re having an apple bake-off for anything apple,” McIlveene says. “We’re hoping to get a lot of entries.”

Local chefs will judge the competition, which is officially named the Anything Apple Bake-Off. There is an application form for potential competitors on the Oatland web site.

If the application form does not print, contestants can call the center and ask that a form be faxed to them. Entry forms must be submitted by Nov. 9 and all entries must be delivered to the judging area by noon on Nov. 12.

Judging will take place at 1 p.m. and winners will be announced at the Heritage Homesite Stage at 3 p.m. Judging will be based on presentation, taste and originality.

Participants need not be present to win. “They can fix apple pie, apple crisp, apple butter -- anything as long as it has apples in it,” McIlveene says.

“There will be a Best of Show award given in every category. There also will be first place and second place awards given. All entries must have apples,” McIlveene says. “There’s a separate entry for apple recipes with cane syrup in them.”

There is a category for adults and a category for children ages 12-18. There also is a team category for a parent or grandparent and a child age 6-12, plus the separate cane syrup category.

Of course, the cane grinding will remain a major focus of the festival. Visitors can watch as the sugar cane is juiced and turned into cane syrup with a horse-drawn mill -- just as it was done 150 years ago.

McIlveene says the cane is cut the week before the festival. “Part of our staff actually goes to the farm and cuts the cane,” she says. “We’re very fortunate this year. We have an Americorps team at Oatland Island to build a marsh boardwalk. We have a team of 10 and they are going to the farm with a couple of staff members to cut the cane.”

Music will be provided by the Savannah Folk Music Society. There will be food and refreshment concessions and fresh, hearth-baked corn bread, sugar cane, cane juice and cane syrup will be offered for sale.

Visitors also can give to others at the festival. The Second Harvest Food Bank will conduct a food drive, and anyone who brings non-perishable food items to donate will receive a free general pass for a future trip to Oatland.

Oatland Island Education Center is owned and operated by the Savannah-Chatham County School System and serves as a field study site. It also is open to the public for self-guided tours of the Native Animal Nature Trail that winds through maritime forest, freshwater wetlands and salt marsh habitats.

Visitors will see native animals, including wolves, black bear, cougar, bobcats and birds of prey. “It’s such a wonderful part of the school system,” McIlveene says. “We served 21,000 kids last year. We also had 16,000 weekend visitors.”

Admission to the festival is $5 per person. Anything Apple Bake-Off contestants will be admitted free, as will children under 4.

The Oatland Island Education Center is at 711 Sandtown Rd. For information, call 898-3980 or visit www.oatlandisland.org.


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Linda Sickler

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