The Journal Gazette
Sunday, September 19, 2021 1:00 am

Dumplings, crafts, more on sale

Large crowds gather for Johnny Appleseed Fest

JAMIE DUFFY | The Journal Gazette

The Fort Wayne Kiwanis Club has the corner on apple dumplings at the Johnny Appleseed Festival.

Saturday, Kiwanis president-elect Joe Henderson and his crew were dishing out the puffy treat at six bucks apiece, and today, he expects the lines to be just as long.

“We'll go through 4,000 today and 4,000 tomorrow,” said Henderson, dressed in a roomy, old-fashioned white shirt and straw hat. “People buy them and put them in the freezer.”

The two-day festival in its 46th year spreads over acres east of Memorial Coliseum and along the St. Joseph River. The event honors John Chapman, or Johnny Appleseed, who is said to have planted apple trees in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois in the early 1800s.

Potter John Platt III has been selling his distinctive blue and white pieces there since the beginning.

“He's one of the founders,” his daughter, Carol Platt, said at his vendor tent. There was a small festival held in 1975 for fourth graders studying Indiana history in the run-up to the nation's bicentennial, John Platt recalled. The next year, the event took off and continues to be run by an all-volunteer staff, according to its website.

Over two days, the festival attracts 250,000 people, and Platt said he believed this year “would probably beat all records.” The COVID-19 pandemic forced last year's event to be canceled.

Platt's blue-and-white pottery features a bird he patterned after artwork popular in the 1850s, the time the festival aims to represent. Vendors wear authentic-looking clothing and food is cooked in large cauldrons, while the Johnny Appleseed Park Campground is filled with folks reliving the American pioneer era. Pipes and drums and the occasional cannon can be heard throughout the grounds.

It was the first time Isaiah Curry, 14, had ever attended the festival. He was part of a serving crew with Boy Scout Troop 349 that sold stews and soups.

His mother, Holly Kelly-Curry, got an apple dumpling from Fort Wayne Kiwanis while his father, Tommy Curry, appeared with an apple crisp from the other side of the festival. Isaiah and his brother Hayden Kelly, 15, tried other fares.

Curry called the festival “very inclusive” and was happy to see a more diverse crowd than he expected. Isaiah decided it was a “very fun experience,” and was interested in the metal-working demonstrators and the forge.

The festival features crafters, demonstrators, food vendors, a farmer's market and open-air entertainment.

The festival continues from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. today.

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