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Joshua Thomas
Gary Van Slyke was a roaming minstrel during Sunday's Rhubarb Festival, traveling about the Nellis Tavern grounds with musical stories to tell.

Joshua Thomas
PSS Member Sally Nellis Kuehl serves pie Sunday.

Joshua Thomas
Montgomery County Undersheriff Peter Vroman, PSS President Mary Nellis Davis and PSS Member Sally Nellis Kuehl talk pie during Sunday's Rhubarb Festival.

Joshua Thomas
Kelly Button, of Sharon Springs, won first and third place with her cherry-rhubarb and strawberry-rhubarb pie recipes.


Rhubarb in plentiful supply during 18th annual festival

Wednesday, June 04, 2014 - Updated: 10:05 AM


C-S-E Editor

ST. JOHNSVILLE -- The Palatine Settlement Society held the 18th annual Rhubarb Festival Sunday to bring in money for the continued restoration of the 1747 Nellis Tavern.

The tangy, herbaceous perennials were in abundance Sunday, sold fresh in stalks, as punch (mixed with a bit of sugar, orange and lemon juices), and as a variety of pies, 50 of which were baked by the seven PSS members and donors. Attendees had the option of purchasing a whole pie or buying by the slice, and could choose from plain rhubarb, strawberry-rhubarb, cherry-rhubarb, blueberry-rhubarb, and a selection of streusel topped creations.

Kelly Button, of Sharon Springs, entering the pie-baking contest for the first time, was thrilled to win first and third place with her brand new, original recipes for cherry-rhubarb and strawberry-rhubarb, respectively.

Of the cherry-rhubarb pie, she said, "I never made it before, and I hadn't even tasted it when I entered it, but it was good." She noted that she felt the cherry-infused dessert took top place due to its uniqueness. "I think the cherry was just different. It was outside the box," she said.

Montgomery County Undersheriff Peter Vroman, who attended the Rhubarb Festival for the first time, said of the fundraising gathering, "It was a beautiful day for this event. The food, of course, was delicious, the company was awesome and I had a great time here."

"Next time I'll bring my wife and kids, because I know they'll love it out here as well."

Vroman was just one of the many first-timers through the doors of the Nellis Tavern Sunday. Palatine Settlement Society President Mary Nellis Davis noted that of the large crowd that had already passed through by early-afternoon, many were visiting the Nellis Tavern for the first time.

The Nellis Tavern has come an astoundingly long way since the PSS took the initiative to bring it back to life, yet there is always work that needs to be done.

Recently, an extensive masonry project was completed in the basement, wherein a limestone support pillar located in the center of the building was deconstructed, piece by piece, labelled, and painstakingly put back together. The pillar, there since the building's original construction in 1747, took two weeks to reassemble.

Next, the PSS hopes to restore the stenciling on the walls of the building's upper and lower front rooms. The stencils, painted on top of the plaster walls in the building's "new section", constructed in 1815 or so, were originally done by migrant stencilers, who would come through and decorate the walls over the course of one or two months as payment for their board.

"As soon as they took the old wallpaper off, the stencils started to fade," said Nellis-Davis, explaining that even though ultraviolet plastic covering has been installed on the windows, which are also covered with curtains, the stencils continue to rapidly fade.

The PSS has made copies of all the stencils and will now undergo the task of finding somebody who can replace them in a historically accurate fashion -- an involved process that will first see PSS members seeking state input, then finding somebody with the skills to properly do the job.

Joshua Thomas - A blueberry-rhubarb pie by PSS Member Sally Nellis Kuehl.

Joshua Thomas - Rhubarb pie of every kind was in plentiful supply Sunday.

Joshua Thomas - The PSS will work to replace the stenciling covering the plaster walls of the building's 1815 addition in the near future.

Joshua Thomas - PSS Treasurer Sandy Nellis Lane scoops rhubarb punch Sunday.

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Kelly Button's First-Place Cherry Rhubarb Pie

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