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CAPE MAY – If peaches could wilt, they probably would have Aug. 12 during the 41st annual Peach Festival sponsored by the Women's Community Club of Cape May. The air conditioning went out the morning of the event, held at the Our Lady Star of the Sea Church, during the fifth heat wave of the summer. Temperatures were in the high 90s and the heat index was even higher. 

"Most of our members are in their 70s and 80s," noted club President Lorraine Neppler, "this heat is tough."

Despite the heat, the women's spirits didn't cool as they cooked lunch items, served desserts featuring peaches and ice cream, answered customer questions about "white elephant" items for sale and offered samples of food to visitors.

The Peach Festival is typically the largest fundraiser for the organization (about $3,000), which provides funding for two scholarships and other community charities.

According to Neppler, in her first year as president, the first Peach Festival was held in August 1976, in the former Episcopal Church building on Lafayette Street (later to become the City of Cape May Welcome Center) and currently a playhouse.

The event was held many years inside the building with tables on the front lawn with crafts and books.

In later years, tables were placed in Rotary Park. After that, the committee decided to take the festival indoors after being rained out one year and experiencing extreme heat other years.

By mid-morning, Neppler said attendance seemed "down," which she attributed to other sales and festivals going on in the area.

Contacted the next day, Marilyn Meikle, club publicity chairperson, said, "Things went well considering all the heat. The air conditioning was fixed about an hour before it was over (at 2 p.m.)."

The Women's Community Club of Cape May was organized and federated in November 1921. Initially, the Women's Club supported the arts, music, drama and gardening, as well as philanthropic works. Typically, in the late 1930s, it was customary to reward a female graduate from Cape May High School an award of $5.

The club award in 1939 was $350. This year, scholarship money was awarded to a graduate of Lower Cape May Regional High School and the Cape May County Technical High School of $1,000 each.

The Women's Community Club is affiliated with the New Jersey State Federation of Women's Clubs and is a registered 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Arts Creative, Arts Performing, International Outreach, Conservation, and Education are some of the community service programs.

The local club judges the Cape May Baby Parade and participates in beach sweeps, in addition to supporting the local fire companies as part of its local projects.

"We are always looking for new, younger members," Neppler said. Meetings are held on the third Thursday of the month from September to June at the Cold Spring Presbyterian Church's Price Hall, Seashore and Academy Road.

Any woman in the area who would like information about attending a meeting or becoming a member may call 609-884-4626.

To contact Karen Knight, email kknight@cmcherald.com.

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