Apple Festival celebrates Youth Day

Published 8:25 am Monday, September 28, 2015

The Apple Festival crowned new youth royalty on Youth Day. Audrey Kuehn was crowned princess and Hunter Wetenkamp was crowned prince. (Leader photo/DEBRA HAIGHT)

The Apple Festival crowned new youth royalty on Youth Day. Audrey Kuehn was crowned princess and Hunter Wetenkamp was crowned prince. (Leader photo/DEBRA HAIGHT)


For Leader Publications


Michiana youngsters took center stage Saturday for the Four Flags Area Apple Festival’s annual Youth Day activities. From morning through afternoon, children could enjoy games and activities and watch a parade just for them and their parents.

Youth Day began with the trike and big wheel race in the morning followed by the Prince and Princess selection. The afternoon’s activities began with the Youth Parade and were followed by children’s games and refreshments at the festival grounds.

Chosen by random draw to serve as this year’s prince and princess were Hunter Wetenkamp, 8, of Niles, and Audrey Kuehn, 7, also of Niles. Hunter is a student at St.

Mary’s School, while Audrey attends Granger Christian School.

With the first Saturday of the fall season feeling more like summer, families lined the parade route along 17th Street from Eastside Park to the festival grounds to watch the parade. This was a different kind of tailgate party with people parking their vehicles on the edge of the grounds to watch the parade.

As always, the parade highlight was the appearance of the Apple Festival float which this year honors the festival theme of “Festival Salutes our Troops.”

Festival royalty from the senior king and queen down to the newly crowned prince and princess rode on the float, which salutes armed forces and local veterans.

For Miss Apple Festival Ellie Hurd, Junior Miss Tressy Mazumber and their courts, riding on the festival float marked the start of what will be a busy two weeks for the young ladies.

“I love Youth Day,” Ellie said after the parade. “It was crazy to see all the kids. Tressy and I wished we had a camera to take a picture of everyone behind us in the parade.”

Ellie and the rest of the royalty spent the afternoon serving refreshments including hotdogs, drinks and cotton candy to the hundreds of kids coming to the festival grounds after the parade.

Youth Day drew both families coming for the first time and those who make it a point to come every year. Just as with the main festival events, Youth Day attracts people from not only Niles but throughout the area.

Armenda Rock and her daughter, Daisy Vandegrift, fell in the first category.

“This was our first time at the parade,” she said. “We just moved to Niles. I expect we’ll be back for the festival next weekend.”

There was certainly plenty to entertain youngsters Saturday afternoon, from the bounce house and games to the activities offered by the Curious Kids Museum and Michiana Christian Embassy.

The Curious Kids Museum area was a popular stopping point for families, offering a variety of hands-on activities. Kids could participate in “do it yourself” face painting, choose an animal headband, take part in toss games and blow bubbles, museum

volunteer Brittany Wesner said.

Michiana Christian Embassy offered families the chance to see a puppet show and then walk through an obstacle course representing the different parts of creation. Doreen Whittaker said the obstacle course included areas representing the Garden of Eden, night and day, water and animals including dinosaurs.

“It’s wonderful to see all the kids,” she said.

Youth Day sponsors include the Greater Niles Community Federal Credit Union, McDonald’s Restaurant of Niles and the Niles Service League.

The festival’s main events kick off Thursday and run through Sunday with a carnival, entertainment, fireworks, food, games, concessions and contests at the festival grounds at 17th and Lake Streets. The Festival Grande Parade steps off in downtown Niles at 1:30 p.m. Saturday.