AppleJack Festival turns back clock for 50th; event brings in tens of thousands of visitors
NEBRASKA CITY — It’s a golden delicious anniversary for the AppleJack Festival.
To celebrate 50 years, festival organizers are reviving a few favorite events from generations past.
Fire hose water barrel fights, an apple pie baking contest, an apple peeling contest and a reunion of AppleJack royalty are all part of this year’s festival, which runs Friday through Sunday in Nebraska City.
“We are trying to figure out what has made AppleJack so popular in the past,” said Tammy Partsch, marketing coordinator for the event. “So it’s kind of a throwback to things we have done in the past, but with a new twist on them.”
The water barrel fights, popular in the ’70s and ’80s, pit two teams armed with fire hoses in a reverse tug-of-war, hoses trained on a suspended barrel, trying to push it beyond a designated line before their competitors can do likewise. The current iteration will be held after Saturday’s parade, in front of the fire station. It’s adult contestants only, with registration fees benefiting the Fire Department.
“I have a picture from the 1986 water barrel fights. I am the lead for my fifth-grade class,” said Partsch, a former Miss Apple Jack (the crown still fits). “It was wet and dumb but the funnest thing.
“(This year) I have left my classmates in the dust for some younger, buffer team members.”
At Sunday’s “Taste of AppleJack” apple pie baking contest (noon to 3 p.m. at Fox Center Event Space), visiting crew from the USS Nebraska will officiate a pie-eating contest and award prizes for best desserts. But first, at 1 p.m., contestants will carefully peel apple skins. Each competitor gets one shot. Longest peel wins.
AppleJack is as big as ever for its 50th year, with dozens of events spread throughout town, including a parade, a marching band competition, craft fairs, flea markets, orchards and all kinds of apple pie. Bringing back nostalgic activities, Partsch said, isn’t about the tens of thousands of out-of-towners who come in for the festival, but rather for the citizens who have helped make it so strong over half a century.
“Our locals are the ones who staff the orchards and who are behind the counter at McDonald’s and Valentino’s,” she said. “We wanted to do some things to thank our locals for doing this for 50 years.”
But the improvements to this year’s festival aren’t only for locals. Event organizers continue to try to improve their free shuttle system, which helps alleviate traffic and parking congestion.
Charter buses will transport attendees among five stops, including orchards and downtown Nebraska City. Visitors can park at any one of the stops, but organizers recommend a large lot at 1009 7th Corso.
“When our town swells to 80,000-plus people, the traffic is atrocious,” said Amy Allgood, executive director of Nebraska City Tourism and Commerce. “We really encourage people to park and use the shuttle system.”
For more information and a complete list of events, visit gonebraskacity.com/festival/apple-jack-festival.