Unsurprisingly, apples were a popular subject at the 23rd annual PA Apple 'n Cheese Festival, which began Saturday at Manley-Bohlayer Farm in Canton.

Crowds lined up for the opportunity to taste an apple dumpling, made by the "Apple Dumpling Gang" from the East Canton United Methodist Church. They watched eagerly as volunteers demonstrated how to use the farm's cider press. Groups sold apple crisp, apple pies and other fruity desserts.

Near the farm's south meadow, Ken Robertson of Canton stirred a pot of apple butter cooking over an open fire. Robertson, who said the butter has been a fixture at the festival for 17 years, said the process of making the treat is time-consuming - one day to prepare the apples and make applesauce, and another to cook the mixture down. "It's an all-day affair," he said.

Once the butter was finished cooking, volunteers jarred and sold the apple butter to customers the same day. Proceeds from the sale of the butter will benefit Rekindle the Spirit Inc., the non-profit organization that maintains the farm and coordinates the annual festival, Robertson said. Rekindle the Spirit is also responsible for the maintenance of the on-site cider press, which was donated to the farm by Larry DeWert. Volunteers have rebuilt the grinder, press and conveyor belts and continue to make improvements to the cider mill.

Robertson said the butter was a popular seller Saturday, with only two jars left from Friday's batch as Saturday's butter was taken off the fire. The large pot holds about 50 pints worth of apple butter, he said.

Other attractions at the two-day festival included five rows of food and craft vendors, an art and photography show, a wood carving demonstration by Troy artist Gary Hilfiger, games for children, a clown, a blacksmith demonstration, live music and pony rides.

In the kids' area, children painted pumpkins, tried out wooden stilts and played old-time games.

Vendors said they were impressed with Saturday's turnout, despite projected rain in the forecast. Annette Brace of Asaph Maple Farms said she was surprised to see such a large crowd. "There are going to be a lot of sales," she said.

The PA Apple 'n Cheese Festival continues from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday at the farm, located off Route 414 on East Canton Cross Road.

Amanda Renko can be reached at (570) 888-9652; or email: arenko@thedailyreview.com.