(Lander, WY) – Apple pie was cut, judged and eaten, cider was pressed, Lander apples and hard cider sampled, and a good time was had by hundreds of folks at the Lander Pioneer Museum Apple Fest on the grounds of the Museum of the American West this past Saturday.
Lander has a long history of growing apples, dating back to the 1870s, and at one time produced so many apples it was known as “The Apple City.”
Getting fresh produce and fruit into the valley in the early days was hard and expensive, so Lander pioneers Ed Young and Jacob Meyer, among others, worked hard to breed trees that would survive Wyoming’s climate, creating unique breeds to the area. Many of these early trees are still producing even today, and Lander apples are sold at the farmer’s market.
The museum wanted to create a fun family event to recognize the history of apples in the Lander Valley, and the Apple Fest was created.
The event’s best apple pie contest had an adult and a kid’s category this year.
In the kid’s contest young baker Cecilia Velarde won first place and a ribbon along with a $15 cash Prize. Second place went to Alex Wise for his Cinnamon Roll Apple Pie. He won a $10 cash prize and a ribbon. Third place was won by Charlotte Osborne’s Apple crumb pie who took home a museum store gift certificate and a ribbon.
In the adult category, Chivonne Torrez from Riverton won first place for her midnight apple pie. She won $60 and a ribbon. Cheryl Wise of Lander won second for her Roasted brown sugar apple pie. She won a $35 prize and a ribbon. Heather Foss of Lander took third winning a $25 prize and ribbon.
According to museum sponsors, it was a close call with all the pies being great. Judge Sue Peters said they had a hard time picking the winners.
“They were all terrific,” said Peters. “There are some fine bakers around here – the kids’ pies were excellent – it’s nice to see young people getting involved in this.”
After the contest, the pies were sliced and sold for $2 a slice to the crowd, with the money going to the museum. A line stretched clear off the porch of the Pioneer Cabin for a chance to taste the pies, and not a crumb was left.
A popular activity was the cider press – kids lined up apples in hand to crank the gears and grind and press the apples to make cider.
“You’ve never had apple cider until you’d had it fresh from the press,” said Pioneer Association President Bill Elder. “These kids are having a blast running this machine – it’s modern, but built like a traditional 100-year old press.”
Other kids’ activities included a crafts table, horseback rides around the museum grounds and an applesauce eating contest.
Different age groups had to eat apple sauce through a straw – the kid who ate their applesauce the fastest won a gift certificate to the museum store. Kids aged 5 and under, 6-9, 10-13 and 14 and over competed. The audience rooted for their favorites as the kids raced to get all the applesauce down.
In the crafts barn at the Livery Stable kids and families also had the opportunity to decorate a wooden ornament that will help decorate the museum’s Christmas Tree this winter.
Ian McGregor, owner/operator of Farmstead Wyoming in Jackson came to the apple fest with kegs of hard cider he produces from Lander apples. Very popular in Jackson, there was a long line to get a taste of the tart hard cider. The cider is also sold locally at several Lander stores.
“What a fun event to honor Lander’s apple history and its present,” said McGregor. “We are excited to be a part of this, to share what we make from Lander apples with Lander people.”
Jack States from the Canyon Ranch, which has some of the original apple trees first planted in the valley, was at the festival with samples of Lander apples. Jack talked to many people about the history of apples in Lander. He is active in helping bring back historic orchards and trees in the area.
“People don’t realize just how big a part of our local agriculture apples were,” States said.
“We’d like to thank everyone who came out on this blustery fall day to join us for apple fest,” said Randy Wise, site manager of the Lander Museum. “We’ll be planning to do it again next fall with even more apple-related activities.”
Wise wanted to give a special thanks to all the folks who helped with the event.
“Our judges worked hard if you can call sampling apple pies hard work,” said Wise with a smile. “The Pioneer Association, our friend’s group, helped enormously, as did many other volunteers including kids from the Lander High School National Honor Society.”
Next up for the Museum is the annual “Halloween Night at the Museum,” October 15 and 16. A massively popular kids event, it is a “slightly spooky” tour of the Museum of the American West grounds with many fun activities.
For information call the museum at 307-332-3373 or check the Facebook page.