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Volunteers are backbone of Mill Festival

By Carol McIntire

Mill FestivalThere's no doubt volunteers are the backbone of the Algonquin Mill Festival.
To visitors, the festival looks like a well-oiled machine that runs smoothly year after year.

Yes, it does. It's because of the many volunteers who come not only from near, but afar to donate their time and services.

Merle Albrecht, who was found stirring bean soup, has been a volunteer for more than 20 years. Although he is not a member of the Carroll County Historical Society, the group who puts on the festival, he volunteers for his church, Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church in Carrollton.

"I got involved with the festival because it is a fundraiser for the youth group in our church," he said. Talking, as he used a wooden paddle to slowly stir a large kettle pot filled to the rim with soup, he explained it takes about five hours to cook a pot. "We put this pot on at about 8 this morning and will cook (over a wood fire) until about 2. We'll take it off, cool it and it will be ready for tomorrow," he explained.

Other members of the church were busy manning the bean soup stand Friday morning.

The sauerkraut stand was bustling with activity. Sales were brisk. Diane and David George of Minerva have been heading up  the sauerkraut stand for about 14 years. They said it takes a lot of volunteers to make it work.

"We processed nine ton of cabbage in August," Diane said. David added that you lose about 1,500 pounds in the processing stage, so there is about 7.5 tons (yes tons) for sale during the festival.

"We had between 45 and 50 volunteers on site to process the kraut over a two-day period," she said. "Then we have between 20 and 25 volunteers working in the stand each of the three days during the festival."

David said volunteers come from near and far to lend a hand. "We have volunteers, many of which are family and friends, come from as far as Canton, Akron, Grafton, East Palestine and New Bedford," he said. "We are very grateful to volunteers who come and help every year."

Ann Saltsman heads up the group of volunteers known as "The Bag Ladies" in the mill. A 28-year volunteer, she said she does it because she enjoys it. She has a list of about 25 "bag ladies" she calls upon for assistance.  One of them, Leezette Littell, met her husband while volunteering at the festival 12 year ago. They were married the next year on Saturday of the festival on the steps to the mill. Littell smiled when she said she was looking forward to celebrating her 11th wedding anniversary at the mill.

The festival runs through today at the festival grounds, located on SR 332 about six miles south of Carrollton. The pancake house opens at 7 a.m. each day. The festival closes at 5 p.m. each evening. Admission is free, however there is a parking charge. 

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