NAPPANEE — Nappanee Apple Festival Core Committee president Donna Persing said the committee is expecting big crowds at this year’s festival, which will be the 45th annual festival since last year’s festival was canceled because of COVID-19.
Persing is basing that prediction on the turnout of other events held so far, such as the Wakarusa Maple Syrup Festival and the Elkhart County 4-H Fair. She said the Kiwanis booth at the fair was up 20% this year.
She admitted the past year was challenging for the committee and despite COVID they were still planning on holding the event last year right up until August, but it needed to be canceled she said.
Despite the continued uncertainty this year she said the core committee went “full speed ahead and kept going.” She said they thought if it needed to be canceled again they would, but felt hopeful when the Maple Syrup Festival and the fair were able to be held and there wasn’t a big uptick in cases after those events.
She pointed out that the Nappanee Apple Festival, with the exception of the cornhole tournament, is outdoors. They have COVID protocols in place, including hand sanitizer stations around festival grounds and the tables in the food court area have always been constantly cleaned by volunteers. Masks are optional.
“Last year it was detrimental to crafters not being able to have it,” Persing said, and as a result some decided not to continue doing crafts and festivals. She said there will still be a variety of vendors to visit.
FESTIVAL GROUNDS RESTRUCTURED
Persing said they made some changes to the festival ground layout this year. Returning favorite acts Granpa Cratchet and Silly Safaris and the headliner — what they call the “wow factor” — will all be at the library parking lot. This year’s main attraction is the Chicago Boyz and in the past only the headliner was at the library parking lot.
There will be exhibitors in Leadership Park and the stage that was in Leadership Park in the past will be moved to where the Granpa Cratchet show was held on North Clark Street. She said that was to allow for shade.
“Plus now there’ll be something going on constantly at the library parking lot,” she said.
Chicago Boyz acrobatic team appeared on America’s Got Talent in 2008 and is making a return appearance at the Apple Festival, but it’s been more than five years since they’ve been there. Several other returning favorites will be entertaining the crowds on one of the three entertainment stages. Acts like Mike Hemmelgarn — the comedian/juggler/ventriloquist, Blue River Jazz and Billy Dee have become regulars at the festival.
Last year would’ve been the 45th festival as the first festival was in 1975, but since it wasn’t held they’re calling this the 45th festival. The festival has grown from a block-long festival to one that has expanded throughout the downtown area and to the east and west of town, too. Persing said they still offer some of the activities from those early days of the festival like the pedal pull that was part of the very first festival. The apple peeling contest, cross cut saw contest and of course the 7-foot apple pie — that was chosen No. 1 in the State of Indiana’s Top 10 Fall Festival Signature Food items in 2013 and 2016 — are all from those early days as well.
CARNIVAL RIDES AND PARADE
There will be carnival rides and games provided by North American Midway and wristbands will be available Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
On Saturday, the parade will start at 10:30 a.m. with a flyover from the Flying Hooligans. One of the parade committee members, Julie Dijkstra, said the NorthWood High School marching band will be a part of the parade, even though they have a competition later that day. The festival queens will be in the parade as will members of LeAnne Dance Studio. There will be some old World War II Jeeps featured. But Dijkstra said entries for the parade are still coming in so she wasn’t sure how many entries there’ll be.
The portable restrooms will be in a different location than listed on the map, according to Persing, but were only moved around the corner. She also mentioned there will be a shuttle service running from Nappanee Elementary to Coppes Commons and out to the Barns at Amish Acres so that visitors can park vehicles at Nappanee Elementary and still get around to the festival venues.
According to committee members the festival is made possible through the financial support of local and area retail and corporate business, city of Nappanee employees, Nappanee Area Chamber of Commerce and a dedicated group of volunteers. Principal sponsors are Community Foundation of Elkhart County, Elkhart County Convention and Visitors Bureau, Community Fiber, Kountry Cabinets and Home Furnishings, Martin’s Supermarket and Miller’s Orchard.
Persing invites visitors to “Come see the great entertainment, eat great food, enjoy the rides and see new and unique exhibitors.”
Denise Fedorow is a columnist and correspondent for the Goshen News. Readers may contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Denise on Twitter @DeniseFedorow