During Nebraska City’s beloved annual AppleJack Festival, between 80,000 to 100,000 people swarm into town to celebrate the fall harvest of apples. This year’s 48th Annual AppleJack Festival is jam-packed with events and activities during the weekend celebration, which is Friday through Sunday.
AppleJack’s growth has gained some national recognition and continues to be a “national-caliber event.”
Nebraska City Tourism & Commerce Marketing Director Tammy Partsch said the fair-style food, the AppleJam Carnival, craft shows and all of the activities all together add to the festival’s success. Partsch said she frequently Googles other community festivals to contrast and compare them to AppleJack and to also seek new ideas for the community-wide celebration. She said nothing compares to AppleJack.
“I’ll say I think we’re awesome. I’m not really seeing much that I think that we need to have that we’re not,” she said. “I mean, we’re going great.”
Last year, the AppleJack Festival was nominated by USA TODAY as one of the top 10 fall festivals in America. AppleJack didn’t win the No. 1 spot, however, it did rank No. 3 according to www.10/best.com.
The week of Aug. 22 through Aug. 27 of this year, AppleJack was one of 10 videos aired on Lincoln’s 10/11 Now news station’s “Our Town” video series, which highlights a certain town’s gems. “AppleJack Festival Preview” aired Aug. 26 and can be seen on www.1011now.com.
Lance Schwartz of 10/11 Now interviewed both Partsch and NCTC Executive Director Amy Allgood for the AppleJack Festival video.
“It was a really fun chance to brag on our town a little bit knowing that we were going to get a lot of coverage in Nebraska itself and anytime you go somewhere throughout the state and you say you’re from Nebraska City nine times out of 10 they’re going to say, ‘Oh I love Nebraska City for the apples in the fall. I always come for the fall apples and AppleJack.’ So being able to promote that even more to people who already have an interest in it was really, really cool.
“When you get interviewed for something like that you really have to think about what your answers are and you realize how neat it is to have a festival like this in Nebraska City,” Partsch added, “and we impressed them a lot.”
Partsch said Schwartz brought his family along to purchase some famed apple donuts and tour Nebraska City. Partsch said Schwartz’ parents had even discussed how they could see themselves moving to Nebraska City.
Partsch also briefly talks about the AppleJack and Arbor Day festivals in Nebraska City in the “Tourism & Attractions” CGI video on the city’s Web site at nebraskacityne.gov. CGI Communications, Inc. of Rochester, N.Y., captured four videos highlighting Nebraska City, including the mayor’s welcome, business, tourism and attractions and parks and recreation. The videos can also be seen on the Nebraska City Area Economic Development Corp’s Web site and will be available on NCTC’s as well.
Even Woman’s Day magazine has given AppleJack a national nod.
Partsch was contacted by Woman’s Day Aug. 16 to get more information about AppleJack in order to possibly highlight it in a feature article about fall festivals. On Aug. 23, she was crossing her fingers that AppleJack will be featured in Woman’s Day.
NCTC announced on Aug. 16 that Nebraska City was featured on the “MSN Tiny Travelogue: 50 Small Towns to Visit Across the U.S.” and was selected as one of the top 12 greatest Midwest towns by Midwest Living magazine last year. In April 2014, the Smithsonian Magazine named Nebraska City as the ninth best small town to visit in the country as well.
With this year’s AppleJack theme being “What’s Your #AppleTradition?” NCTC is hoping that the modern-day theme will also promote the festival more on social media.
Partsch and NCTC membership specialist Pam Frana said NCTC begins preparing for the AppleJack Festival immediately following the annual Arbor Day Festival in April. On Aug. 23, Partsch had already devoted over 20 hours toward this year’s schedule of events booklet to make sure all of the information is correct and allowing businesses wanting to participate a chance to advertise their businesses and specials in the booklet. NCTC produced 10,000 booklets for this year’s AppleJack Festival and they are located at various businesses, restaurants and gas stations around town, as well as at the NCTC office, located at 806 1st Ave.
Partsch added that on Aug. 23, NCTC was thinking about including a small brief encouraging people to come back to Nebraska City during the fall months for the Living History events and to stop into the local museums.
“Don’t just come for AppleJack because apples still keep coming,” Frana said. “We got to make sure people come back.”
Three billboards located at some of Nebraska City’s entrances and others located in Kansas City, Mo., Mound City, Mo., Lincoln and Omaha were erected by NCTC in July to attract tourists and visitors to Nebraska City in an effort to make it a year-round destination. The billboards at 72nd and Pacific streets in Omaha and near Memorial Stadium in Lincoln will be up until after the festival and feature the saying, “A CITY SO GREAT, THEY NAMED A STATE AFTER IT” and have photos of apples and an AppleJack banner on them. Frana loves the billboards and called them “catchy.” Traveling billboards were also placed on the back of Viking Ship semi-trucks as well.
This year’s festival will feature the annual favorites like the AppleJack Fun Run & Walk, the Kids One Mile Fun Run, the AppleJack Pancake Feed with the sailors of the USS Nebraska submarine making a special appearance this year, the 48th Annual AppleJack Parade and craft fairs galore all over town featuring fine art, homemade crafts, vendors and more. Frana said the events have become a lot bigger, such as the AppleJack Flea Market all weekend and the AppleJack Classic Car Show Sunday.
“They made the downtown flea market twice the size that it was last year,” Frana said. “They are anticipating about 400 cars (at the car show), where last year they had 250.
“We are growing,” she added.
Also during the festival, visitors get to sample apple pie, apple cider, apple cider donuts, candied and carmel apples, apple fritters, apple salad, carmel apple candy bars and many other apple-related foods around Nebraska City.
People will also be treated to a music and camping festival, Orchids on Parade, a food court, cosmic bowling, a beach party, library events, engineering educational activities, beer gardens, live music, herbal salves and soaps demonstrations, food booths, learning how to trace a Civil War ancestor, ice cream and so much more.
Along with being able to get an autograph from 2016 Summer Paralympics athlete Cheri Becerra Madsen, who is also this year’s grand marshall, people will be able to attend a beer garden and see a live bull after the parade in the sunken parking lot along Central Avenue. The bull is to promote the AppleJack Extreme Bullriding Tour that will take place the following weekend on Sept. 23 at 7 p.m. at Hidden Falls. People will also be able to purchase tickets for the Extreme Bullriding Tour and register their children for the Mutton Bustin’ portion of the tour.
At dusk on Saturday, around 7:30 p.m., people can also watch the movie “8 Seconds” in the sunken parking lot for free. Partsch said NCTC’s Summer Movie Series was such a hit with the community that NCTC had decided to have one more movie showing during AppleJack.
Partsch believes this year’s festival will be “fantastic” because there’s a little bit of something for everyone.
“Honestly, the only concern that we have now is the weather and that’s the only thing that we can’t control, but that does make a big difference on the people coming into town and how successful the weekend is,” she said.
Partsch said the community’s involvement and hard work is what makes AppleJack a success and she’s hoping residents will support businesses and explore their own community a little bit more throughout the weekend.
“They are the ones who are putting on these activities and events and for some businesses this is bigger than Christmas. This is the weekend that makes or breaks their year and our job is to make sure that it makes their year - that it’s a success for them,” she said. “So locals, stick around and see some things that you don’t normally see, go to some museums that you don’t normally go to, shop places that you don’t normally shop because it’s a special weekend.
“For tourists coming in, it’s a chance for our town to show itself as being hospitable, fun and progressive,” she added.