The apple of their eye

By Gus Bode

Family owned orchard celebrates fall festival this weekend

Factoid:Flamm Orchards is located at 8760 Old Highway 51 north of Cobden

Jeff Flamm, 41, remembers running around his parents’ orchard and stuffing his face with as many mouth-watering and fresh-off-the-tree apples that he could stand.

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That was more than 30 years ago. Today, Flamm remains part of the family business that is Flamm Orchards, and this weekend, he’ll be using his knowledge of various apples to create the best cider possible at this year’s Flamm Orchards’ Fall Festival.

“I’ll still be eating more than my fair share of apples,” he said.

The second-year celebration in Cobden takes place as part of the Union County ColorFest, an annual event in which all the county towns, from Alto Pass to Jonesboro, host events and activities to get town people involved and lure others from outside Union County.

“They all sort of do their own thing and it makes for a lot of stuff going on,” said Karen Flamm-Garner, the orchard’s office manager.

Most of the different towns’ activities take place Saturday and Sunday, with Flamm Orchards planning to host the Cobden activities. Flamm-Garner said both days will feature live bands and include other activities available to enjoy.

Ol’ Fishkins and Shady Mix, both popular Southern Illinois bluegrass bands, will play at the festival. Ol’ Fishkins will play Saturday and Shady Mix will perform Sunday. Both days will feature a petting zoo consisting of animals from local farm owners. Goats, sheep and donkeys will be among the four-legged guests.

Throughout the weekend, Flamm will use hundreds of apples in his antique cider press to make a unique blend for his cider. He said the combination between sweet Golden apples and tart Jonathon ones produces a popular drink blend that is free for festival patrons to sample.

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“I won’t just stand there and press cider all day,” Flamm said. “You’d end up with more apple cider than you know what to do with. For the weekend, we’ll probably make 20 to 30 gallons or better.”

Apple butter making and wood working demonstrations are a couple of the other events people can enjoy. One man will also be on hand doing flint knapping, in which he carves shapes out of pieces of wood using a sharpened deer antler.

For other food, the 17th Street Bar and Grill will make it out to the event, and smaller tents controlled by groups such as St. Joseph’s Church will be fundraising by selling hot dogs and bratwursts. And of course, the Fruits and Cream Stand will remain open through the orchard to sell apple pies, apple dumplings and a variety of jams and jellies.

During the rest of the year, the orchard, which has been in the Flamm family for 114 years, specializes in more than just apples. The fifth-generation Flamms pick strawberries in the spring and peaches in the summer. Both fruits are sold by individually and in tasty treats such as strawberry shortcake.

“Everything is made from stuff we grow,” he said. “People like their fruits as fresh as possible.”

Leonard Flamm, 67, also knows what it’s like to work at the orchard and spend his life surrounded by the freshest fruits possible. He’s been a co-owner since 1957.

“My father owned it, and I guess it was just in my blood to take it over,” he said.

Leonard said he’s excited about this weekend’s festival, and he’s hoping the event doesn’t get seven inches of rain like it did last year. Without poor weather, he expects there to be a decent turnout of apple lovers.

“Every year, they all come out to get peaches and apples,” he said. “I guess they can expect to get them a little cheaper, and they know they can get them fresher than in the store.”

Jeff Flamm knows he can’t go back and relive his days as a careless child running through the apple orchard, but he has fun working at Flamm Orchards nonetheless.

“I still enjoy it, and I always will,” he said. “It’s something that just stays with you.”

Reporter Brian Peach can be reached at [email protected]

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