Writer / Amy Lant-Wenger
When autumn comes around every year, there are fewer places to catch the glorious sights and spectrums of color quite like the Midwest. And the city of Nappanee is no exception.
Last year was somewhat different, however. The leaves were blazing, the temperatures were cooling, and the crops were plentiful. Even so, there was something quite tangible that was missing.
The absence of the Nappanee Apple Festival left a palpable sense of melancholy, as the community was forced to set all of the best laid plans aside for the sake of public safety.
And now, one year later, the Festival will once more reign supreme all along the corridors of downtown Nappanee. All of the music, the crafts, the food, the lively ambiance, it is most definitely welcomed back with the fanfare and jubilation it deserves.
The Nappanee Apple Festival is scheduled to take place beginning Thursday, September 16 through Sunday, September 19 in the heart of the city. The festival times are 5 p.m. until 9 p.m. on Thursday, 11 a.m. until 10 p.m. on Friday, 10 a.m. until 10 p.m. on Saturday, and 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. on Sunday.
The Apple Festival first started in Nappanee in 1975, when it was merely a simple street affair that spanned a city block. One of the very earliest attractions that never fails to capture the attention, and appetites, of visitors. The former Ron’s Bakery was the site of the legendary six-foot apple pie. The giant confection weighs approximately 600 pounds, requires nearly 100 pounds of crust, and features 200 pounds of apple filling. The restaurant has since changed hands and is now the Mexican eatery known as El Cielito Lindo, and the new owners have remained dedicated to keeping the tradition going. Once the Festival gets underway, the pie is on full public display before being cut into pieces and sold to a waiting and willing audience of taste testers.
Three different arenas will showcase some of the finest regional talents specializing in family-friendly entertainment. New this year will be the Chicago Boyz Acrobatic Team, offering shows in succession among other local favorites, such as Granpa Crachit Kids Show and Puppets, the NorthWood High School Vocal Department, and Silly Safaris. Music from several local bands will also provide a melodious atmosphere, with The 1985, Memphis Underground, and The Bulldogs scheduled to appear.
And not to be missed is the traditional crowning of the new Apple Blossom Queen. The current pageant queen is Samantha Markham, who received the honor at the 2019 Festival. The celebration of the 2021 contestants will begin at 7 p.m. at the Kountry Cabinets Entertainment Tent.
Food and craft vendors will be situated along South Main Street and a significant swath of Lincoln Street and Clark Street. Shuttles are being provided to transport guests to various locales around Nappanee. The youngsters and the young at heart will certainly be delighted to see the carnival rides returning, and those can be found on South Main and Lincoln streets. Patrons should plan on making a stop at the Napple Store to find the best souvenirs.
This year’s Festival will undoubtedly have an air of bittersweet, particularly with regard to the parade. It has been an honorable part of Festival protocol to select Grand Marshals to lead the caravan, typically a distinction given to an individual or family that has contributed greatly to the Nappanee community. Before the Festival Committee made the sad announcement that it would be necessary to cancel the 2020 event, husband and wife Randall “Randy” and Beth Yoder were christened as Grand Marshals. Randy, perhaps best known as the owner and founder of R. Yoder Construction, passed away on September 26 of 2020.
For this year’s parade, it was decided that Beth would carry on with the Grand Marshal duties, with her late husband being named posthumously to share the title.
The Nappanee Apple Festival website is continually being refreshed and updated as the dates draw nearer. Folks can visit nappaneeapplefestival.org to download various forms and maps, inquire about volunteer opportunities, look up the entertainment schedule, or view a list of frequently asked questions. The eagerly awaited return of the Festival will be the perfect setting to welcome in the very best of the fall season.