The Murphysboro Apple Festival will celebrate its 70th year when the festival officially opens at 5:15 p.m. Wednesday on the Appletime stage.
After a scaled-back version of the festival in 2020, this year’s event will include most of the traditional Apple Festival events with a few changes because of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Mayor Will Stephens.
Some events have been moved outdoors. All indoor events will require those attending to wear a face covering.
The Appletime Prayer Breakfast will begin at 6:45 a.m. Wednesday in Carl Lee Park (next to Sallie Logan Library), with the program at 7 a.m.
The event is free and tickets are not required. Dunkin’ Donuts will provide coffee and donuts.
Murphysboro Apple Festival originated as a one-day event in 1952 sponsored by Murphysboro Chamber of Commerce to promote businesses in Murphysboro. It has grown into a premier four-day festival, held annually the second week after Labor Day, that includes contests, parades, a pageant, carnival and all things apple.
The event has become its own not-for-profit organization and is run by a committee of volunteers led by Shawn Stearns.
“The committee runs it and makes the Apple Festival happen,” Stephens said, adding that the city gives them permission to close a few streets and works with Illinois Department of Transportation to make sure traffic is re-routed for the Appletime Grand Parade.
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One of the goals of the annual festival is to educate people in the region about the importance of local orchards and horticulture in general.
One organization, Jackson County Farm Bureau, will sponsor a tent that will give everyone the chance to talk to people from the local orchard and learn about apple production in Jackson County.
Farm Bureau manager Taryn Chesnek said the county has two apple producers, Mileur Orchards and Lipe Orchards. Visitors to the tent can pick up a cookbook with recipes using local apples.
“It’s always important to know more about your community and the orchards are part of the community,” she said. “It helps people feel more connected.”
Barb Arbeiter said the tent will feature different apple peelers, including one antique peeler, and an apple press which was donated to the Apple Festival.
“Children can press apples and we offer them a taste of fresh cider. For many, it’s their first taste of fresh apple cider,” Arbeiter said.
She added that the county used to have many orchards and apple packing sheds. There was a packing shed in Murphysboro. Daniel Brush, founder of Carbondale, even mentions an orchard on the Logan Farm in his book.
Arbeiter said Mileur Orchard and Rendleman Orchard are both big supporters of the Apple Festival and provide cider and apples to the festival.
The event’s main event is the Appletime Grand Parade, which draws an average of 160 participants. It is considered the region’s largest parade.
The parade begins at 11 a.m. Saturday, with awards at 2:15 p.m. at the Gen. John Logan Statue at Murphysboro Middle School. Band awards are presented after Drums at Apple, a marching band field show competition, at 4 p.m. Saturday at E.L. “Doc” Bencini Field at Murphysboro High School.
The Apple Festival also has a variety of free events for visitors of all ages, including entertainment each evening on the Appletime Stage, a free fair for children and a children’s parade, along with the Appletime Grand Parade.
More information and a complete schedule can be found at murphysboroapplefestival.org.