NELDON: Apple Festival about more than treats and fun

Published 2:24 pm Friday, October 1, 2021

Rock band Cinderella said it best: “you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone.”

This old adage has rung true over and over again since March 2020, as traditions and practices we did not even know we loved were taken from us in an attempt to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. While I fully support these mitigation tactics, there were many times throughout the last year when I realized just how much I looked forward to a particular event or activity. Like most of the rest of the world, I missed seeing my friends’ smiles as they were hidden by masks, traveling to anywhere outside my home, grocery shopping without worrying about crowds and attending live concerts, plays and sporting events.

Of all the events I missed last year, however, the Four Flags Area Apple Festival was chief among them.

Although the Apple Festival did host a Harvest Market in lieu of the traditional festival, I longed for the sound of squeals on carnival rides, the laughter from pie eating contests and, most of all, seeing all that makes my hometown special in one enormous parade.

While these features of the event were certainly missed, I realized what I missed more was the tradition in general. There is no greater reminder of what our community is made of than the Four Flags Area Apple Festival.

This one weekend every year, residents from Niles and surrounding communities are reminded of the fruits of our region.

Throughout the 30 or so years I’ve attended the Apple Festival, the event has meant different things to me. As a child, it was a chance to spend time with family, eat all the sugar my stomach could handle, and then try not to toss my cookies as I rode the Scrambler or the Tilt a Whirl.

As a teenager, the Apple Festival was a taste of freedom — a time when parents let us visit with friends, a safe place surrounded by the comfort and protection of longtime neighbors and friends.

As an adult, the Apple Festival was a homecoming of sorts. It was that time every year when you see people from every stage of your life — from childhood friends to old teachers and family members. It’s a time to look back on fond memories and make new ones. Although I’m proud to live in Niles year-round, I look forward to seeing friends from out of town come back to visit this beloved event each year.

While this year’s event will be slightly different than previous years — some events have been canceled for safety reasons as the pandemic continues on — for the most part, the Four Flags Area Apple Festival is back in its traditional form.

Throughout the weekend, thousands of people celebrate all that makes Niles the great place that it is with delicious treats, handmade arts and crafts, crazy contests and all the apples you could ever wish for.

More importantly, though, it will serve as a reminder of how much events like these matter to a community. The Apple Festival will be a time of reconnecting with loved ones, making new memories and celebrating the hard work of many throughout the Niles area.

After a year of its absence, I can say with full certainty that I will never again take for granted the impact of our city’s beloved Apple Festival. I hope you join me in taking advantage of this invaluable tradition.

Ambrosia Neldon is the publisher at Leader Publications. She can be reached by phone at (269) 687-7700, or by email at ambrosia.neldon@leaderpub.com.