Apple Festival Harvest Market offers venue for local vendors to sell wares

NILES — Although the Apple Festival Fairgrounds were free of the typical screeches and whirls from carnival rides this weekend, the sound of local vendors pitching their products could be heard throughout the open field.

Two such sales people, Naomi and Neriah Stephens, were among those inviting shoppers into their booth.

“Would you like a free sample of lip gloss?” 11-year-old Neriah boldly asked nearly every customer who walked by, pumping hand sanitizer into her palm as she prepared to safely distribute the samples.

She and her sister, 13-year-old Naomi, are the founders and proprietors behind NS Cosmetics, an organic cosmetic line based out of their home. The girls’ products, which include lip gloss, lip balm, sugar lip scrub, eyelash serum and lip oil, are made free of chemicals, then packaged in containers labeled with the girls’ business name.

“I personally wear a lot of lip gloss,” Neriah said Sunday morning between customers. “I like makeup, too, but my dad doesn’t let us wear makeup. He only lets us wear lip products.”

She noticed the lip balm she purchased at the store often made her lips break out, so she and her sister set out to find a safe alternative about two years ago.

“Some businesses create products with materials that you really shouldn’t be putting on your lips,” Naomi said. “So we decided, ‘why don’t we make something that’s organic and very healthy, non-toxic and have no chemicals?’ We were like, ‘why not do this so other people can share it with their families?’”

Between virtual learning sessions, the sisters prepared products — made from ingredients like vitamin E oil, coconut oil, bees wax and rose petals. They set up a website and social media pages to market their products, and readied for their first festival, the Apple Festival Harvest Market.

Like the Stephens sisters, more than 80 vendors spaced out across from the Apple Festival grounds Saturday and Sunday, selling items such as pumpkins and apples, candles, headbands, salsa, holiday decorations and more.

A small selection of food vendors sold food to-go, including Niles’ El Amigo Pepe, the Pretzel Wagon, Nedderman’s Steak Tips and a handful of others.

The event was hosted in place of the Four Flags Area Apple Festival, which typically hosts a carnival, multiple parades, contests, live entertainment, a car show and more, in addition to a craft show sponsored by local sorority Psi Iota Xi. Due to COVID-19 mandates — and to do its part to mitigate the spread of the virus — the festival board opted to only host a small portion of the event. With vendors spread out and visitors encouraged to keep a social distance from others, organizers said they felt the craft show portion of the event was safe to host and could more easily limit the number of people on the grounds.

The Harvest Market continues through 4 p.m. Sunday.

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