BERLIN – The town once home to one of the largest peach nurseries in the world will celebrate its historic roots this weekend.
Mayor Gee Williams will kick off activities at the Berlin Heritage Foundation’s Peach Festival on Sunday, Aug. 9 at 12:15 p.m. with a proclamation declaring August as "Peach Month."
Berlin’s businesses are getting in the act by promoting the peach-related theme in their individual operations, as the town’s downtown is celebrating a "Peach Week" following the festival on Sunday.
According to Berlin Main Street Director Michael Day, "Berlin’s merchants are excited about supporting the festival in many different ways. Food-related businesses will add peachy dishes to their menus. Retailers plan on selling peach-related merchandise. We sponsored the festival committee’s old-fashioned fans."
In addition, the Berlin Main Street Program is sponsoring a Little Miss and Little Mister Berlin Peach contest. Girls and boys between the ages of 3 and 6 years may sign up all day on Aug. 7 and 8 on Main Street in front of The Treasure Chest and before 2 p.m. on Aug. 9 at the Peach Festival.
There will be a parade of contestants at 2:45 at the festival. The winner will be announced at the Berlin Main Street Program’s Second Friday celebration on Aug. 14 at 6 p.m. in front of the Atlantic Hotel. Williams will introduce the pageant and Terry Sexton will emcee. Four judges, including former Miss Berlin Susan Rencher, will determine the winners.
With its Peach Festival, the Berlin Heritage Foundation is working to preserve and to educate the public about the cultural history of the Town of Berlin and its surrounding area. The local and visiting community is invited to celebrate the product that contributed to a booming local economy back at the turn of the last century.
Berlin was once home to J.G. Harrison Nurseries, which reached its peak of success in the 1920s under Orlando Harrison, former Berlin mayor and state senator, as the world’s preeminent grower of peach trees and other fruits.
According to an informational piece distributed by the family-run Harrison Group, owner of 10 area hotels and numerous restaurants, to hotel guests, “It was during these days that the first ‘Peach Festivals’ were held in Berlin. Each August the sleepy town would usher in the arrival of the peach crop with all day festivals and celebrating. Special trains were run from Wilmington, Del. and Philadelphia to Berlin, allowing city residents to hand select peaches to take home with them. One of the most popular varieties on sale was the ‘Hale Peach’ named for Orlando’s son G.Hale. It was this particular peach that inspired Berlin’s moniker of ‘Hale, Maryland’ as the filming location of 1999’s blockbuster Runaway Bride with Julia Roberts and Richard Gere.”
In the 1940s, the nurseries were unable to sustain a hold on the market due to the invention of the refrigerated train car that allowed growers, mainly from California and Florida, to ship their products far and wide.
“In 1962, after experiencing declining profits and the death of then owner, G. Hale Harrison, Harrison Nurseries closed. However the family has retained the farmland and has replaced the orchards with corn, soybeans and wheat,” the informational piece distributed by the Harrison Group said.