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Left longing for Apple Fest and the memories
YOUNG THATCHER seems to be in the seasonal spirit of things, helping his family press apple cider. ‘That apple time of year’ has always been a big deal on the Schendel side of the family, and the tradition seems well implanted into the next generation.

RISING SUN - Did anyone else wake up Saturday morning and feel incomplete? I couldn’t quite put my finger on it until sometime in the afternoon. Then, it hit me. 

“Today should have been Apple Fest,” I suddenly blurted out to myself. 

It’s no secret that Apple Fest is a very special time for me. I’m particularly fond of the flea market held at the fairgrounds. When I was younger and my family lived in Beloit, I remember my parents rifling through totes and boxes of stuff they had collected over the year at sales and auctions. Pricing, sorting, and labeling each with a TS or RS for Tom and Rhonda Schendel for sale at the Flea Market in Gays Mills. 

I also remember begging my parents for money to go and wander the aisles buying oddities or gag toys. One year, ‘Fart Packs’ were particularly popular. When you squeezed them they would activate and explode leaving a horrible rotten egg smell. They went well with the fake cigarettes that would puff real plumes of a smoke-like material. 

All of this activity would be filled with laughter, haggling, and a giant Nesco cooker of my mom’s homemade chili and my Aunt Doris homemade bread. It was always the same faces every year that you only saw at Apple Fest. It was a light of my childhood. 

A few years went by, when I didn’t have a car and lived far from home and missed Apple Fest. I felt like I missed Christmas. 

In my adult life, Chasca and I gained a special bond and appreciation for each other at the Apple Fest Flea Market. 

At the first market we did together, we had just discovered we were expecting what would go on to be Thatcher. He hadn’t told a soul yet. I was tired and sick, but had to keep it together while we tried to sell our treasures. Chasca would go and collect bottles of water and make me stay hydrated. And, we secretly bought a handmade tiny baby spoon from the booth next to us. We even pillaged a wooden high chair that Thatcher still uses, from the garbage at the end of the event. Reporting to our family that we intended to resell it. We earned enough money from that weekend to take a babymoon vacation together to Mexico. 

The next year, we bought baby Thatcher with us and he was the mascot for our booth. I would sit in the box trailer and nurse him in between customers as well as tuck him away in there for naps. He took assisted steps across a steamer trunk Chasca lifted down there. It prompted one passerby to exclaim “It’s not every day you see a baby Moon Walking across a trunk at a flea market.” 

Although our days of selling at the flea had come to an end, being among family and friends was still a welcomed last hoorah for us and many others. Before all the leaves dropped and Jack Frost came nipping at our nose, there was Apple Fest. 

Of course, the weekend culminates with the beloved parade. I've had many different roles over the years in the Applefest Parade. Once when my dad had a classic Chevy car, we threw candy from the windows. 

One year, somehow I got asked to be a Grateful Dead Bear and walk in the parade handing out carnations and stickers that said ‘I Miss Jerry’ to attendees on behalf of the Village Greenhouse. It was a particularly hot year that September and I decided to go with the bare minimum of clothing under the full body suit. One of my friends promised to meet me at the end of the parade with my clothes but of course, wasn’t there. That left me to walk around in a vibrantly colored bear suit for quite some time before I found them. 

I also, of course, have handed out countless numbers of free Crawford County Independents. Because we always worked hard to make sure our Apple Fest issue was the best all year long. 

I like to think that like many things, Apple Fest will be bigger and better next year. Longstanding traditions like this are so important for the little communities like ours. It makes us special and it makes us unique and it builds the foundations of our memories over a lifetime.

We are distinctly lucky to have a community full of people who care about the positive and beloved traditions, like Apple Fest. And if we can hold on a little longer, wear our masks and keep our distance, we might be able to have a laugh and a hug over some hot apple cider next year. Woohoo! See you at Apple Fest.