One of my favorite times of the year is the beginning of fall, and for me the season always starts with the Johnny Appleseed Festival in Fort Wayne. Being born and raised in Fort Wayne, I have experienced the sights, sounds and delicious smells of this festival every year since I can remember. When I was little, I made wax candles and played on the pioneer-style wooden rides. As I got older, I wandered through the encampment site, intrigued by the lucky rabbit feet, unique feather jewelry, and colorful beads for making your own necklaces. This year, I browsed the antique vendors and purchased a water pitcher for my kitchen. Walking through the wooded area of the park, I always take time to watch a potter spinning a bowl on his wheel, women weaving blankets on looms, and if I’m lucky, I catch a glimpse of Johnny Appleseed himself, all with the sounds of bagpipes in the distance.
One of my favorite things about the festival is that all of the workers are required to wear period dress similar to what was worn in 1800’s. This includes all of the food vendors, most of whom are working over hot fires all day long to serve up comfort food to thousands of people. Everything smells so good that I have to try it, so I always go hungry. Some of my favorites are the ham and beans (with homemade cornbread), vegetable soup, pork burgers, corn on the cob, and my personal favorite – caramel corn. If you haven’t had hot, fresh caramel corn before, this is something you should definitely try. And for only $2 a bag, you can buy enough to share. I know my grandma always appreciates that. And of course, there are plenty of apple treats. Apple dumplings, apple slices with caramel sauce, apple cider and even an apple pie contest.
Before leaving the festival, I always pay my respects to Johnny Appleseed at his gravesite on top of the hill. Without his generous sprinkling of appleseeds in Indiana, we may never have gotten to experience this fabulous festival in his honor year after year. See you there next September!