Despite local orchards losing much of their apple crops after some spring freezes, St. John Parish's Applefest is soldiering on. Spicers Orchards, a longtime supporter of the annual festival, helped Applefest volunteers by bringing in fruit from West Michigan, said Dave McDermott.
"Our cost has more than doubled," he said.
Chuck McDonald, also part of an Applefest volunteer chaircouple, said apple pies will cost $10 instead of $8 this year.
The apples are still from Michigan, added McDermott, who is half of the Festival General Chaircouple with his wife, Sara McDermott. There will still be apple pie, sold by the slice or a whole pie, along with apple crisp and a new dessert for Applefest, apple dumplings. The price of apple pie and the other apple treats has increased by a couple of dollars, due to the apple shortage in the Fenton area, he said. Prices for all other food will remain the same.
For the same cost as a night at the movies, a family can go to Applefest and enjoy the festival, rides, food and more, McDermott said.
And many go — approximately 100,000 people visit Applefest. The four-day event, held Thursday through Sunday, is made possible by approximately 1,000 volunteers, approximately 30 percent of whom do not attend St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church, McDermott said.
"It's less about it being St. John's and more about it being a community festival," he said.
More on Applefest
Besides apples, Applefest will feature Skerbeck Brothers' carnival from Escanaba, which will include a few new rides, McDermott said. And the raffle prizes awarded at the end of the festival have more than doubled.
"We're going to have 40 prizes for 40 years," he said.
A new raffle will be a 1951 MGTD Midget Roadster, donated by Roger Sharp of Sharp Funeral Homes.
The annual car raffle also will be held, and Nite-N-Reno will take place Friday and Saturday. Texas hold 'em poker will be held on Saturday, and the annual road races are Saturday morning with 10K, 5K, 1-mile and "Core-ter" (one-fourth) mile distances.
Music will be offered as well, with dueling pianos, McDermott's favorite, on Thursday evening. Friday's music will be classic rock by Dirty Murphy, and Saturday's will be by the Rock n Roll Engineers.
McDonald was overseeing the apple peeling, with his wife, Amy McDonald, on Monday at the St. John Activity Center. Applefest usually receives 2,500 to 3,000 pies per year, half from parishioners and half from volunteers at the St. John Activity Center. Because of the spring frosts, 1,000 pies are being made at the activity center. They are hoping for another 1,000 pies from parishioners, McDonald said.
They mostly use Michigan baking apples from Spicer's Orchard, he added. This year, some of the apples were grown at Spicer's, and others are Granny Smith apples that Spicer's had brought in for Applefest.
Volunteers at the activity center will bake 300 pies on Tuesday to test the ovens, and then bake 700 on Wednesday instead of the usual 1,000 on the second day of baking. Eighty pies per hour come out of the ovens, and finished pies are placed in a room with air conditioners to keep them fresh.
"We might accidentally 'drop' one for taste testing every now and then," McDonald said.
Festival food also will include Padre's Chili, Fr. David Harvey's special recipe, which he makes fresh for Applefest every year. On Monday, Harvey said the chili was coming along wonderfully, with a lot of good volunteers.
"It will be over 160 gallons," he added.
Other favorites will include elephant ears, which are a huge hit with children, McDermott said. And there will be pizza, sausage, hot dogs, hamburgers and more.
Proceeds also help support St. John Catholic School, since tuition families pay for their students doesn't cover all of the costs, McDonald said. The school has grown from one class per grade level to two, and it's added preschool. Students can attend through eighth grade.
Volunteers began planning Applefest in February, McDermott said. They will have their last meeting for this year in October.
"Everybody is extremely generous with their time," McDonald said.