The Georgia Salzburger Society meets each year on Labor Day to celebrate their legacy, now calling the event the Salzburger Heritage Day Festival. A barrel of hand-squeezed lemonade is made by a committee for all in attendance to enjoy.
When I was asked by the Georgia Salzburger Society to do research on the tradition of the lemonade, the old newspapers gave little to no information about the committee that has faithfully prepared the lemonade with very little recognition. All of the information came from word of mouth from the families involved in making the lemonade over many years.
It is documented that in 1934 there was lemonade made for the 200th anniversary of the Salzburgers’ arrival. There was a huge play that year. A Lutheran synod convention’s attendees from Savannah had greatly increased the crowd, and it was mentioned in the paper that there were barrels of lemonade. Likely this may have been the beginning of the tradition that is still going strong each year.
Members of the committee over many years include: Fred Gnann, Charles Gnann, Hubert Dasher, Barnard Exley, Freddie Helmey, Albert Allen, James Edwards, Walter Zoller, Arthur Exley, Rewis Hinely and Dallas Exley. Some others who have helped off and on are: Marty Edwards, Jesse Edwards, Kerry Edwards, Stuart Exley, Brett Exley and Porter Seckinger.
The men making the lemonade on the church grounds are so busy preparing the lemonade that their work does not allow them to attend the 11 a.m. worship service/business meeting in the church with a guest lecturer each year. By the time the meeting is over, the lemonade is always ready.
The wooden barrel is kept and stored by one of the committee members and has to be handled with care. The late Freddie Helmey and later James Edwards chaired the committee. James has recently retired due to poor health after many years of service to the Salzburgers.
A few weeks prior to the festival, the dry barrel is filled with water, so that the wood will swell to stop any leaks. The current barrel was purchased by current Georgia Salzburger Society President Noble Boykin at one of the liquor distilleries out of state and shipped here. The new whiskey barrel was not charred and is therefore well suited for lemonade.
After the festival, it is washed and left out in the open to dry. Once dried it is stored wrapped in cloth to allow the wood to breathe, avoiding any mold. This “seasoned” barrel is the container that the lemonade is prepared in and served from with a ladle or old time dipper.
“Salzburger Lemonade” is not made from dry powdered lemonade mix. It is made from 300 (200 count) lemons, 60 pounds of sugar and lots of ice. Until it closed this year, Snooks Grocery Store in Springfield had always ordered lemons, sugar and cups for the event. This year, Harvey’s has ordered supplies at cost for the event.
The lemon squeezer that is used was hand made by Walter Zoller. It is a two-part hinged device with a carved, rounded area shaped like a lemon on the underside. The squeezer is mashed 600 times to make the barrel of lemonade, juicing one half of a lemon each time. A lot of elbow action goes into that barrel of lemonade.
Some of the lemon halves are added to the mixture to add flavor of the oil in the rind for that authentic lemonade taste. It is also important not to squeeze the rinds too hard or too much of the oil will make the lemonade bitter.
On Labor Day, join the Georgia Salzburgers at the Fesival at Jerusalem Lutheran Church, 2966 Ebenezer Rd. in Rincon, beginning at 9:30 a.m. The theme for the year is the Revolutionary War at Ebenezer with many activities to enjoy free of charge. Making lemonade from fresh lemons is becoming a dying art. While there, be sure to go by for a sample of this ice cold “real lemonade,” made the old fashioned way, served from a barrel.
This article was written by Susan Exley of Historic Effingham Society. If you have comments, photos or information to share contact her at 754-6681 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org