PRINCETON — Cooking apple butter scented the air and children enjoyed a corn maze and games Saturday as Stumpkin’s Pumpkins and the Lindsey Ann Varney Foundation hosted their first-ever Fall Festival and Haunted Hay Ride.
Visitors started converging Saturday as the Fall Festival got underway at 1007 Old Oakvale Road. Lori Varney and other volunteers made last-minute arrangements as guests started to arrive. In the concessions tent, she pointed out portraits of her daughter, Lindsey.
“That’s my baby girl,” she said. “We have started a nonprofit. It’s the Lindsey Ann Varney Foundation. Our foundation has been set up to help families of kids diagnosed with DIPG (Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma). About 300 kids a year are diagnosed with this. It’s a type of brain tumor.”
Lindsey was diagnosed with DIPG when she was 15 years old, her mother said. She passed away on March 3 at the age of 17. There is no cure for this type of brain tumor, which forms near the delicate pons of the brain; such tumors cannot be removed. Radiation treatment has had some results, but there is still no cure.
The daughter of the late astronaut Neil Armstrong died of DIPG about 40 years ago, Lori Varney said.
“And we know no more about it now than they did then,” she added.
One of the new foundation’s goals is to raise awareness about DIPG and childhood cancer. Childhood cancer now receives only about 4 percent of federal funding for research. When the money is divided even more, it amounts to only $500 in research funds per DIPG child, Lori Varney said. The foundation hopes to help families in other ways later.
“We are set up to help families in southern West Virginia and southern Virginia whose child has been diagnosed with any serious illness,” Varney said. This aid could include financial help helping with lodging and travel expenses.
Stumpkin’s Pumpkins off Old Oakvale Road has a pumpkin patch where people can select some for Halloween, so Tonya Osborne, a member of the family that owns the property, approached Lori Varney about hosting a Fall Festival for the foundation. The plan is to make it an annual event.
Children played a variety of games and enjoyed activities such as face painting, a corn maze, the hay ride and a bounce house while other guests shopped among the vendors and visited other parts of the property. In a nearby cabin made with lumber salvaged from a 250-year-old barn that once stood on the farm, Judy Stump, Tonya Osborne’s mother, pointed out the tool marks still visible nn the vintage timber. Her son-in-law, Tom, and grandson Wylie hauled the lumber to the site. The interior had fall-theme decorations.
“It’s just a cabin they enjoy coming to,” she said.
Nearby, John Puckett of Princeton was watching as a boy stirred a kettle of cooking apple butter. He had started cooking the sweet-smelling treat at 6 a.m. He had several hours to go before it was finished.
“How would you like to do that for 12 hours?” Puckett, father of County Commissioner Greg Puckett, asked the boy. “You’re looking, with a full pot this size, at 12 hours at least. You try to get out all the water you can. The sweeter the apples, the softer they are and the more water there is. The number one thing is you can’t stop stirring.”
Some people making apple butter put coins in their kettles. Pennies are used sometimes, but John Puckett said that he uses three silver dollars. The coins help to regulate the heat and keep the apple butter from scorching.
“This should produce about 60 pints,” he said of the kettle’s contents.
At the face painting station, Shaun Rivera of Princeton watched as one of his daughters, 6-year-old Kinsley, got a little spider and web painting. It was the first pumpkin patch visit for her and her sister, 9-month-old Skylinn.
“The first time we came here, it was little,” Rivera recalled of his previous visits to Stumpkin’s Pumpkins. “It’s quite a bit bigger. It’s exciting to see it grow.”
— Contact Greg Jordan at email@example.com