Things to Do in Fort Wayne and Beyond

Take a big bite of Nappanee Apple Festival

Fritter away your time with food and activities

Published September 15, 2021

Be thankful that Nappanee isn’t inviting you to bite into a caramel onion.

The Nappanee Apple Festival will celebrate 45 years when it returns Thursday, Sept. 16, with more than 170 commercial and craft vendors, as well as more than 20 food vendors.

But before the apple festival, the city had an onion festival in the 1930s-50s.

Maynard Miller, who has been involved with the apple festival and has seen it grow over the past several decades, recounted the ideas and local history that brought it into existence.

“In the south of town, they had huge growers who would do onions for processing,” Miller said. “Well, over the years that sort of died out, and in 1975 a bunch of the chamber’s people and the townspeople got together and said, ‘Let’s start a festival.’”

Because there was a sizable apple orchard on the southwest edge of town, the hopeful organizers decided to base the new festival on the iconic fruit. This orchard just so happened to be owned by Miller’s parents.

“It was a small event,” he said, “and over the years it just progressed.”

Lots to Do and Lots to Eat

This year, a cornhole tournament will take place on Saturday, Sept. 18, at noon at the Napanee Elementary School Gym. The cost for this competition is $40 per team for a chance at the potential $2,000 purse. Pre-registration can be found at the festival website, and event-day registration begins at 10:30 a.m.

The festival’s 5k walk and run will also be held on Sept. 18, at 10 a.m. and will start at the Eastlake Athletic Club on East Market Street. Pre-registration can be found at the festival website for $25, and race-day check-in and registration will take place from 8:30-9:45 a.m.

Walkers participating in the 5k will begin their race at 9:50 a.m. Cash prizes will be awarded to the overall top three male and female runners. More information about the race can be found at the festival website.

A parade with an airplane flyover will follow the 5k race on Saturday at 10:30 a.m. and will start at the corner of Miriam and Market Streets. The parade will continue west until its end at City Hall on Locke Street.

The Wings and Wheels car and airplane show will take place on Saturday, Sept. 18, from noon to 4 p.m. at the airport. Airplane rides will be free of charge to first-time flyers ages 8 to 18 with parental consent.

The festival will also host carnival rides downtown on South Main Street for $20 on Thursday, Friday, and Sunday, as well as for $25 on Saturday.

The Napple Baking Contest will take place on Sept. 18, at 8:45 a.m. with registration for the contest beginning at 8 a.m.

From Thursday to Saturday, festival goers can experience sawmill demos, wheat threshing, hand baling, steam engines, and an apple press.

The young children’s Apple Dumpling Photo Contest will be held from Sept. 16-19. Photos will be displayed at the Gazebo at the Depot Plaza, and the public will use money to vote for winners. The top three kids win cash prizes, as well as a picture frame, when the competition ends Sunday afternoon. For contest registration information visit the festival website. All entries are due by Sept. 15.

The Miss Apple Blossom Scholarship Pageant takes place on Thursday, Sept. 16, from 7-9 p.m. at the Kountry Cabinets Entertainment Tent.

The Chicago Boyz Acrobatic Team will perform several times on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday in the library parking lot. The group has made a number of television appearances, including America’s Got Talent, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, The Steve Harvey Show, and Good Morning America.

Comedy juggler and ventriloquist Mike Hemmelgarn will perform on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at both the Depot Plaza and the Martin’s Supermarket Stage at North Clark Street.

The Grandpa Cratchet kids puppet show will make a number of appearances during the apple festival from Thursday to Sunday in the library parking lot.

The live animal show Silly Safaris will also take place at the plaza on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. According to their website, the mission of Silly Safaris is to “create positive human animal interactions that inspire responsible pet ownership and wild animal conservation.”

The Nappanee Center will host a Quilt Exhibit on Friday and Saturday, Sept. 17 and 18, from 9 a.m.-7 p.m., as well as Sunday, Sept. 19, from 1-5 p.m.

A garden tractor pull will take place on Saturday, Sept. 18, at 5 p.m. with registration one hour prior.

Festival goers can also see a giant, 7-foot baked apple pie at El Cielito Lindo Mexican Restaurant on West Market Street.

To help stop the spread of COVID-19, hand sanitizing and wash stations will be available for use throughout the festival.

For more information and for a full list of events, visit nappaneeapplefestival.org. Festival goers can also find the festival by searching for napplefest on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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