Applefest relies on volunteers to pull off annual celebration
Applefest is known for a lot of things – arts, crafts and food as well as the Friday pancake breakfast, the Saturday foot race and the Sunday car show.
But perhaps its most notable attribute is its display of community.
“This is the town coming together,” said Jim Williams, the chairperson of the Applefest CORE committee – the planners of the three-day event.
He is among the long-timers in the group and has served as the chairperson for about 30 years, so he knows a thing or two about planning a large festival. He says successful, large-scale festivals have “two ingredients that are absolutely essential” – a good, working relationship with the city and a “deep bench” of volunteers.
For Applefest that means hundreds of hands are needed to pull off all the different aspects of the festival from the dedicated planning committee to the volunteers who shine the free apples available at the gazebo. “This little town really gears up to put on this big show,” he said.
Without fail and sometimes without reminder, volunteers start showing up at the chamber Wednesday morning before the festival starts and “instantly stuff starts coming out of the basement,” Williams said. “Everyone kind of gets coffeed up and off we go.”
(Picture by Valley Grove School District)
When the festival starts, the volunteers are fully in action. Williams estimates it takes 30 to 40 people each for the apple pancake breakfast and the pie tent, along with 20 to 30 for the information booth, and 15-20 to set up, maintain and tear down the park.
Then there is the car show.
Accumulating such a devoted crew of helpers came over time and with the help of the organizers of the smaller events within the festival. As different activities were added to the festival over time, different committee members stepped up to lead them. “We individually started recruiting friends and kindred spirits as needed,” Williams said.
And those directly involved with the festival planning and execution are only the start of the overall volunteer headcount as far as Williams is concerned.
“Many of the vendors and booths scattered in the parks are non-profit organizations… staffed by volunteers,” he said, noting that there is an entire section of the festival map specific to those groups. “We call it non-profit row,” he said in reference to the area of Fountain Park that runs parallel to 12th Street. “This is a huge volunteer effort.”
The historical tours offered throughout the long weekend are all led by volunteers and many of the fundraising activities taking place throughout the city rely on those with a mind for service.
While many of the volunteers can be found doing the same jobs and tasks year after year, the festival is always looking for new ways to collaborate with the community as well. For first the time a contingent of Rocky Grove High School students will be counted among those aiding with setup.
Last year teacher Beth Proper and guidance counselor Tracy McBride were trying to find community service possibilities for the school’s sophomores and juniors to do during the newly establish RG Gives Back Day.
“We had the (Franklin) Chamber of Commerce listed and when looking at dates for the event it aligned perfectly with Applefest,” McBride said. “Beth contacted (chamber director) Jodi (Lewis) and asked if she would be in need of and receptive to having student volunteers on October 6 to help with set-up for Applefest. She was and thus that connection was established.”
Williams said the teens will work with vendors to unload their tents, tables and merchandise, and deliver everything to their sales spots. This will be extremely helpful because it will mean the vendors can get off the road faster and lessen traffic delays and hang-ups.
That collaboration highlights the importance Lewis plays in pulling all the volunteers together into a cohesive event. “The volunteers sew all the pieces together, but she brings all the pieces (to the table),” Williams said.