|26th annual Apple Festival ‘a-peeling’ to all ages|
|Monday, October 22, 2012 12:58 PM|
BY STEPHANIE GROVES
VAN WERT — The Van Wert County fairgrounds, dotted with colorful lavender, yellow and rust-colored mums and bright orange pumpkins, hosted the community-driven 26th annual Apple Festival.
There was something for everyone — a multitude of arts, crafts, food and family-oriented activities including kids’ games, wagon and pony rides, a model train display, apple butter, caramel corn and maple syrup cooking and, of course, those infamous fresh apple dumplings.
Of the original vendors, Carl Lape, president of the Van Wert County Fruit Growers, remains instrumental in the production of the yearly event. Much has remained the same in the past few years, with the exception of the new petting zoo. This year, the event drew nearly 120 craft and food vendors to the fairgrounds.
“We started [the festival] in the administration building with eight booths; three were Willman, Baker and Lape’s apple orchards and the remaining five were church organizations,” Lape reflected on the festival’s humble beginnings. “Back then, we wanted to teach them [festival attendees] about drying apples and how to graft trees.”
The Junior Fair Building housed a collection of craft and food vendors. Amidst the array of handmade Christmas decor, ornamental pillar candles and garlands of fall foliage, a booth displaying glass art stood out. Stained glass artist Jennifer Gilkey, crafter of sun catchers, window panels and other custom work, offered original vintage glass reclamation pieces. Each design begins with a layout, selecting, cutting, grinding and washing the glass, wrapping the edges in copper foil, and finally, soldering the lead seams, frame and hooks.
“It [each piece] takes about four hours from layout to completion.” Gilkey explained, “My mother was crafting this artwork and I became interested in the trade. I have been producing my own work for about 10 years. It is a creative hobby that has become lucrative.”
The community flu shot clinic on Friday and Saturday took place in the administration building. It also served as the temporary home for Heather Matthews’ “Happy Gourds,” a gallery of Halloween, Christmas and abstract art-themed fruit which she has displayed at the festival for the past five years.
“I purchase the gourds dry from an area farm,” Matthews described the energy put into the work, “and my friend and I spend all of our free time two weeks prior to the festival designing and decorating the holiday inspired characters. “
The bulk of the booths were in the larger commercial building, which contained many food vendors cooking and serving tasty apple desserts. Among the tables of mercantile, there was one artisan actually demonstrating his craft. Weaver Hubert Keunek operated his floor loom; weaving threads [warp] into pre-cut material [weft] creating colorful “sheets” of woven material, which would later be cut into decorative floor coverings. Since it takes two full days to dress a loom [set up], weaving with the same materials continues until the loom runs out of thread.
“My father was restless and he wanted something to do.” Keuneke reflected back in time, “I bought him a loom and he began weaving. I took up the craft in 1976.”
A working model train, student art show, and kid’s games were held in the agriculture building.