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2020 AppleJack will expand into season-long harvest festival

Nebraska City News-Press

This September, Nebraska City will host the 52nd AppleJack Festival and organizers said the current global pandemic has presented the need to make changes to the event.

“There wasn’t much of a question about whether or not we would have AppleJack,” said Nebraska City Tourism and Commerce Executive Director Amy Allgood.   “The orchards are already full of apples and people are going to come,” said Allgood. “We are trying to figure out ways to control and lessen the large crowds and provide as safe of an atmosphere throughout the city as possible.”

Allgood said NCTC has met with Nebraska City officials, emergency management personnel, police, orchard staff, and retail representatives to formulate a plan of action for this fall.  

“One big change we are going to do this year is to market AppleJack as more of a season-long event instead of just one weekend,” said Tammy Partsch, tourism and promotions coordinator for NCTC.   “The kickoff weekend will be the third weekend in September, like normal, but we are going to also promote the next weekend and the next weekend and even the weekend after that,” she said.

Partsch said certain traditional AppleJack Festival events will go on as scheduled on Sept. 19 and 20, such as the AppleJack Fun Run, the Water Barrel Fights, and the River City Classic Car Club Car Show.  

Other events, such as the Pancake Feed and the Taste of AppleJack “All Things Apple” Contest have been moved.

“The first weekend is the traditional AppleJack weekend,” Partsch said.  “For the weekend after that, Sept. 26 and 27, we are going to focus on the orchards and emphasizing overnight stays.”

Partsch said the first weekend in October will be all about food; that’s when  the Pancake Feed will take place, the town will host a collection of food trucks, and NCTC is even developing a Foodie Passport for that weekend.

NCTC’s Taste of AppleJack “All Things Apple” Recipe Contest will also undergo a facelift.

“We have the opportunity to turn our Taste of AppleJack into a qualifying event for the World Food Championships,” Partsch said.  “That’s a big deal that will attract interest from a different segment of the population.”

Allgood said the goal is to present a variety of events to people who usually come to Nebraska City for AppleJack.

“We know our numbers are going to be down because of the pandemic,” Allgood said, “but we also know there are going to be those who will insist on coming.  If we can spread the fun out over the course of the harvest season, we can gain a bit of control over the size of the crowds.”

Austin Mackrill, vice president of Arbor Day Farm, said they used the time they were closed this spring and early summer to develop and implement an online reservation system for the Tree Adventure.

“We have a new ticket sales platform that allows our guests to choose the most convenient time for their visit through secure, touchless payment,” Mackrill said.   “These reservation times have flattened the curve of peak guest visits to help mitigate large crowd crunches,” he said.

“The feedback we’ve received has been great; our guests have enjoyed less packed times for a better experience.” As far as marketing goes, Partsch said NCTC is focusing on digital media rather than print media, knowing the message about AppleJack may have to change at a moment’s notice. “An update in the Directed Health Measures can mean we’d have to change our plans at the last minute,” Partsch said.  “We will do our best to be flexible.”

One event that is still unknown is the annual AppleJack Parade.   The parade is typically a marching band competition, but many schools are as of yet unsure if they will be able to include parade marching in their curriculum this year.   In addition, traditional parades are not allowed under the current Directed Health Measure, which is scheduled to be in place in the Southeast District Health Department until at least August 31.

NCTC will continuously update their website with AppleJack information at www.GoNebraskaCity.com/festivals.   They are also creating specific event information on their Facebook page.