History of Rekindle the Spirit
History of PA Apple & Cheese Festival and Rekindle the Spirit, Inc.
Rekindle the Spirit has been involved with the greater Canton community since its inception in 1991-1992 as a Main Street Program. Rekindle the Spirit, Inc. is the parent organization of the Pennsylvania Apple & Cheese Festival and the Historic Manley-Bohlayer Farm where the festival is held. The PA Apple & Cheese Festival is the largest event we provide, which maintains the organization and its property.
During Rekindle the Spirit’s early years many opportunities for promoting the area’s resources were developed to benefit the citizens of this small community. New industry was sought, downtown landscapes were improved, business fronts were updated, cultural events were held and promotion of many town-centered activities took place. Individuals, as well as organizations, were united in promoting the area. The origin of the Pennsylvania Apple & Cheese Festival was born from this group as they strived to meet the goals of Rekindle the Spirit. The goal of the Festival was to promote the diverse agricultural and cultural entities of the area. The first Festival was held in 1989 and was a big success for its developers. Much to the delight of the organizers, about 2000 people from around the area attended to enjoy the “fruits” of the local orchards and farms, and the merchandise of the many talented crafters, musicians, and artists. Each subsequent year the Festival continued to expand and draw more and more people to the area. It was at this time that Representative Matthew Baker assisted with designating the Festival as the official Pennsylvania Apple & Cheese Festival.
After funding for the Main Street Program ended, the PA Apple & Cheese Festival continued on its own in promoting the agricultural and cultural assets of the community.
By 1997 the PA Apple & Cheese Festival’s home on the Canton Firemen’s Field was facing a possible FEMA buyout due to flooding hazards. The Festival had also grown so much that it needed a new home. It was during this time that Rekindle the Spirit went into a lease to purchase agreement with Jeff and Angie Sechrist for 12.9 acres of the historic Manley-Bohlayer farm. September 30, 1998, Rekindle the Spirit chose to incorporate to a 501 (c) 3 organization, Rekindle the Spirit, Inc. The new non-profit organization shared some of the ideals of the original Rekindle the Spirit’s economic base but it had an expanded mission statement that included educational, historical and cultural goals.
The first year the Festival was held at the Manley-Bohlayer Farm project, 1999, saw attendance of nearly 20,000 people from all over the state of Pennsylvania and the Northeastern United States. The PA Apple & Cheese Festival has been able to maintain an attendance level of between 10,000 and 15,000 people.
Through the generous contributions of a private donor, a grant from the Endless Mountains Heritage Region and financial support from the PA Apple & Cheese Festival Committee, the Historic Manley-Bohlayer Farm is now owned by Rekindle the Spirit, Inc.
Rekindle the Spirit, Inc. continues to keep the spirit of community as a main part of its mission. Classes and demonstrations as well as events with historical and cultural backgrounds are organized and provided for the community. The South Meadow of the farm houses 2 historic buildings, the East Canton Community Hall and the Hoagland one room school along with working replicas of a blacksmith shop and cider mill.