An experienced carnival worker said despite tough economic times, Murphysboro’s Apple Festival remains largely unchanged.
Kathy Swyear, carnival co-owner from New Athens, said the festival has not grown or downsized in the 25 years her business has been at the event. Even if the town of Murphysboro faces tough times, the apple festival is still dependable, she said.
“It’s the same. I mean, it doesn’t change,” Swyear said. “I think it’s always a great event and something to look forward to and count on it being fun … it’s dependable, that’s a good word.”
The 61st annual apple festival had many of the same attractions as previous years, from the 90-minute parade to the Miss Apple Festival Pagaent. Although most of the festival hasn’t changed, the craft fair almost doubled in size and residents still know what to expect from the rest of the event.
Diane Wichard, of Nanny’s crafts, said she and her husband have attended the fest for the past four years, and the craft fair has only grown and become more organized.
The fair took up almost two city blocks, and there were close to twice as many vendors this year, but Wichard said the fair’s overall value has increased as well.
“The quality of the craft fair has definitely improved every year since we’ve been here. There’s more organization, more volunteers and a lot of follow-up.” Wichard said. “I mean, it’s not very often you get a director who’ll ask you what you liked and what you didn’t like at the end of the day.”
Wichard said she and her husband attend multiple craft fairs in the region and always suggest the apple festival to other vendors when they ask about craft fairs.
She and her husband plan to come back next year, Wichard said, and they expect to see an even larger turnout.
However, Shannon Harris, of Drift Gems and Wire Whims, said she will have to think twice before returning after her first year as a vendor.
“That’s still up for discussion,” Harris said. “As far as it being close to home, yes I would come back. But for the money that I made, I don’t know if I want to spend the $60 I paid to get into the fair again, but you don’t know until you set up I guess.”
Maria Lass, a junior from McHenry studying psychology, said she ran a henna tattoo stand at the fair for the first time, and the turnout was very weak in the fair’s first couple days. When there were many people, Lass said they mainly just wanted to look.
She said she might not come back to the festival next year, but if she does she will have to advertise more.
Although some vendors were disappointed with this year’s fair, not everybody was upset with the changes they saw.
Tad Thompson, a paramedic supervisor at the Jackson County ambulance stand, said this year was relatively safe in comparison to many others because of the lower temperatures.
Besides less injuries and reports of heat exhaustion, Thompson said the festival has stayed almost exactly the same. He said the only major change to the event itself was the planning committee’s choice to end the it Saturday night rather than Sunday.
Wichard said she enjoyed this change because people and vendors alike are tired by Sunday, and they are better served to pack up early and leave rather than show up for four hours and get home late because they packed for the rest of the day.
“You’re just dead by that Sunday,” Wichard said. “Also, they don’t pull the same crowds on Sunday because you don’t have the parade. You don’t have the people from out of town.”
Mike Evans, Murpysboro resident and father of two, said he has attended the event for 37 years and the festival is quite different from when he attended as a child. He attributes the fest’s higher overall costs to the U.S.’s poor economic status.
“I remember my dad would give me a 20 dollar bill, and it would last me a few hours,” Evans said. “Now it’s less affordable, and it’s lost its home town feel. I mean, two corn dogs, a sandwich and two drinks cost me $18.”
The parade is also only half as long as it used to be when Evans was younger, he said. Despite these changes, He said he’ll still come back to the festival year after year with his kids.
“It’s still new to them,” Evans said. “They’re just old enough to start appreciating it.”