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When the sights and sounds of the 65th annual Apple Festival begin to fill up the Murphysboro air in mid-September, Amy Novara Murphy will have a noticeable smile on her face. “I can’t remember a time in my life without the festival,” said Novara Murphy, a member of the festival administrative committee. “My first memory of it is when I was six and we put a float together. What makes it great is that I’m not unique. Everybody has an Apple Festival story.”

Stories that come out of the 2016 edition of the state’s longest-running and largest family-focused fair will likely have something to do with agricultural antiquity. This year’s theme — “A harvest of history” will feature an apple cider press from the 1800s, as well as exhibition space for the county’s 4-H groups.

“We are really getting back to our roots this year,” Novara Murphy said. “There will be plenty of demonstrations that can be enjoyed by all age groups.”

Universal appeal is one of the main characteristics of the festival. It’s also one of the primary reasons it has grown into one of the most popular in the region.

“It transcends age groups, economic levels and personal interests,” Novara Murphy said. “Everybody can find something they love at the Apple Festival.”

More than 45,000 attendees each year come to see the car show, apple pie eating contest, apple core throwing contest, marching band competition and the Appletime 5K walk/run. The festival has its own mascot, Captain Applesauce. It also features plenty of fresh-baked, sweet apple treats from the Appletime Bakery.

So what advice does Novara Murphy have for other towns looking to establish a similar passion among its community? “So many people have shared bonds that go back to the festival,” she said. “I think it’s the fact that we have kept it so kid-friendly. We never really lose that fondness for childhood and the Apple Festival is such a big part of so many children’s lives.”

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