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Joshua Thomas
Sylvia Nellis Boyden and Brenda Khoury serve baked goods during the 17th Annual Rhubarb Festival Sunday.

Joshua Thomas
PSS President Mary Nellis Davis and sister Sally Nellis Kuehl sell whole pies and slices during Sunday's Rhubarb Festival.

Joshua Thomas
A strawberry rhubarb pie that was entered in Sunday's contest at the Rhubarb Festival was sold after judging.

Joshua Thomas
Siblings, from left, Mary Nellis Davis, Sandy Nellis Lane, David Nellis, Sally Nellis Kuehl and Sylvia Nellis Boyden traveled from various locations across New York state for Sunday's Rhubarb Festival, which they all baked items for.


Nellis family unites in the name of rhubarb

Tuesday, June 04, 2013 - Updated: 8:51 AM


C-S-E Editor

ST. JOHNSVILLE -- On Sunday, Nellis siblings and family members, along with members of the Palatine Settlement Society, came together for the 17th Annual Rhubarb Festival at the 1747 Nellis Tavern, utilizing the tart perennial in a variety of baked goods to raise money for upcoming restoration projects.

About 20 people baked for the Rhubarb Festival, with all five Nellis siblings -- Mary Nellis Davis, Sandy Nellis Lane, Sally Nellis Kuehl, Sylvia Nellis Boyden and David Nellis -- preparing items to sell at the event, including pies, bread and brownies. The five siblings, along with additional family members, including Mary's daughter, Brenda Khoury, who travelled from Virginia this year to attend, have all been present at the festival for the better part of a decade. 

The event, said Sandy Nellis Lane, is as much a family reunion for the siblings as it is a chance to celebrate the underappreciated perennial, rhubarb, with the five brothers and sisters traveling from Canton, Rochester, Victor, Johnstown and Herkimer, New York.

While Sandy Nellis Lane noted that she has a small plot of rhubarb at home that she bakes with, the large patch outside the Nellis Tavern is also utilized. The patch was donated about six years ago by a woman from the Cooperstown area. Along with 20 rhubarb plants, she donated a barrel of mule manure and peat moss, which Palatine Settlement Society members planted during a very hot summer.

At the time the rhubarb was planted, and for years after, there was no running water on site, meaning that Sandy and PSS members transported water to keep the patch hydrated.

Sunday's event featured a pie baking contest, which had four entries, each of which was required to have at least 50 percent rhubarb. Mrs. M. Jarosenski was awarded first prize for her rhubarb cream pie, while Jen Garren took second place for "Ava's Fruit Pie", named after her granddaughter, and consisting of rhubarb, peach and strawberries. Mary Lou Corso won third prize for her pineapple rhubarb pie.

The money raised during Sunday's event, which was well attended throughout its five hours, will be put toward a project wherein faded stencil designs will be redone in the building's two story addition.

The PSS has created copies of some of the stencils present in the 1747 Nellis Tavern -- there are 17 altogether -- and sold them during Sunday's event, along with bookmarks printed with the designs. While there is no timeline yet for the project, Sandy noted that it will be very extensive, as the plaster wall first needs to be stabilized or redone prior to the stenciling.

Doors and windows must also be replaced in the cheese house located outside the facility, and doors must also be replaced in the tavern's second story.

The next Palatine Settlement Society event will be the Annual Nellis Association Reunion, held at the John Nellis Farm, Nellis Road, Fort Plain, on Sunday, July 21, at 12 noon. For more information, call (518) 993-2978.

Joshua Thomas Cosby Gibson and Tom Staudle entertain during Sunday's Rhubarb Festival at the 1747 Nellis Tavern.

Joshua Thomas Rhubarb from the large patch outside the Nellis Tavern was used to bake items for Sunday's event.

Joshua Thomas Volunteer Wayne Hartman prepares hot dogs during Sunday's Rhubarb Festival at the 1747 Nellis Tavern.

Joshua Thomas Sylvia Nellis Boyden and Brenda Khoury (right) serve rhubarb-related items during Sunday's event at the 1747 Nellis Tavern.

Joshua Thomas Even after picking pieces of rhubarb to bake with, the patch outside the Nellis Tavern remained vast.


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