Fort Riley invites media to attend a pie baking session for Apple Day Festival

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When I entered the dining facility at Fort Riley, it was buzzing with activity. Machines whirring, voices carrying and bodies bustling combined for an atmosphere of action. The background noise incited me to raise my voice as I talked to several people helping out.

About 30 members of the First Sustainment Brigade were hard at work peeling, slicing and inspecting apples; mixing the slices with brown sugar and cinnamon; and filling the pies or mixing the topping. I saw many powerful men and women in camouflage and red garrison command ball caps wearing aprons and kitchen gloves working with apples.

Master Sgt. David Grant said he was wary of the project to begin with; he has been on post only eight months, so this was his first encounter with the pie-baking tradition.

“We’re all actually having a great time doing it,” he said. “It’s team-building experience for us all, gets us outside our normal element, gives us something different to do.”

He said he encourages others to participate not only because of the spirit of camaraderie, but also because of the aspect of community service.

“I think we all should give back in some form or fashion,” Grant said.

Twenty-six years ago, the Historical and Archeological Society noticed apples dropping from a tree in the yard of the commanding general at Fort Riley. Figuring the apples needed to be put to good use, they decided they would make pies and sell them as a fundraiser.

“Back then they were making pies in their own houses, and then they moved into the Custer House to make pies,” said Julie Snodderly, one of the people assigned to shop for supplies for the project.

Snodderly has seen the project grow exponentially since its inception in 1983 and an industrial-size kitchen became necessary.

“Garrison got together with us and gave us this dining facility to use for the week that we make our pies, so now we have a professional kitchen to make them in,” Snodderly said.

She and Kathleen Whittle orchestrate the event and are known as the “pie queens,” said Deb Skidmore, media relations contact.

The pies are either pre-sold or sold over the weekend at the Fall Apple Day Festival on Saturday.

“The wonderful thing is that all the profit goes right back into the community in the form of scholarships and donations,” Snodderly said.

Kris Bailes, shift leader, described the numbers related to the project.

“We have three shifts a day, and they’re hoping at least 30 a shift,” she said. “I know last night we had the Junior ROTC and the Girl Scouts out here, so this whole facility was packed with people.”

Bailes said participation benefits volunteers by allowing them to meet new people.

“You get to meet a lot of people that you didn’t know,” she said. “When your group does it, you get to hang out with them in kind of a different atmosphere, so it’s fun like that.”

The goal for this year is 1,800 pies, and thanks to Fort Riley’s benevolent invitation for the media to participate in the event, I can proudly say that I helped craft at least of couple of those.

As a freshman who had never been to Fort Riley before, the whole setup impressed me. From the men at the gates to the media relations staff to the “pie queens” to the soldiers, no one was anything but friendly and helpful.

After I talked with these dedicated people, it was my turn to tackle the apples. I must admit, I felt pretty clumsy with the knife, attempting to peel the remaining skin off the apples and slice them up before other volunteers added cinnamon and brown sugar. Fortunately, thanks to a soldier who lent me a hat, I was spared the necessity of wearing a hair net.

For our efforts, the other members of the media and I got to sample the pies. Because of a long history of eating dessert, I am a reliable source, so believe me when I say that these pies were delicious.

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