The La Crescent Apple Festival was founded in September 1949 by Ralph Jones and Mel Hickenbotham, with the purpose of promoting La Crescent, its apple industry, and "putting La Crescent on the map". The initial planning session was held just two weeks prior to the fest. The first Apple Festival was a huge success, drawing a crowd of nearly 20,000 people and was just a sample of what was to come, as the festivals have grown in size and quality every year.
The Apple Festival was incorporated in 1958 with a seven-member board. It has grown to a present board of 21 members headed by 1982 President All Grimes. Apple Festival Inc. is a not-for-profit organization. Board members donate their time and pay their own expenses. All profits made from the festivals are given back to the community for various projects. The Apple Festival, Inc. was instrumental in the building of the swimming pool and the youth hockey warming house. They have purchased beepers for the fire department, playground equipment, build a tennis court, and other numerous projects.
Famous banquet speakers over the years have included visits by ABC news broadcaster Paul Harvey in 1957 and 1961. In addition to Paul's visit in 1961, Minnesota Governor Elmer Anderson and Miss USA, Minnesota's Barbara Peterson also attended.
Ralph Jones was responsible for initiating a tie between Applefest and the annual St. Paul Winter Carnival in 1951. Since that time, our Applefest Queen has been a guest at the Winter Carnival each year.
The Queen Pageant is an important part of our festival and has been since its beginning. Donna Lintelman Reihl was crowned the first Apple Fest Queen in 1949. The Applefest royalty is selected on poise, personality, and appearance. The queen and her royalty become ambassadors for La Crescent throughout their reign. The queen visits the St. Paul Winter Carnival and the entire court attends Le Festival Du Voyageur in Winnipeg, MB Canada. In addition, they attend various functions in the area throughout the year and ride in 20-25 parades each summer. Interestingly, there have been three sets of mother/daughter royalty. Donna Lintelman Reihl was queen in 1949 and her daughter, Nancy Reihl Seiler, was crowned in 1969. Clydene Meindel Williams was crowned Miss La Crescent in 1959 and her daughter, Kim Williams Karr, was name Miss La Crescent during the 1978 Applefest. Judy Mueller Thesing was a memeber of the 1968 court and her daughter, Stacie, was a member of the 1994 court. Since the beginning, a Miss Congeniality was chosen by her peers. In 2006, this title was changed to the Spirit of the Fest Award.
Through the years, there have been other additions to the Applefest family. In 1960, the Applefest name its first La Crescent "Man of the Year", with Ralph Kuehn receiving the honor. Cynthia Good became the first Woman of the Year in 1974. The Man and Woman of the Year are selected by the Apple Fest board after receiving written nominations from the community.
The first Little Miss Apple was Jannalyn Feuerhelm, crowned in 1979. Later, Applefest added the Little King Apple. They are chosen each year from 4 to 5 year-olds who reside in the La Crescent-Hokah School District.
The King Apple Parade is one of the largest in the areas with over 125 units. Our own beautiful Applefest float, with the queen and her court riding and the board members walking along side of it, leads the parade. This award-winning float is unique because it is self-propelled, which means that the driver sits underneath the float. The most recent float was completed in 2003. The Applefest float attends 20-25 parades each summer in Minnesota and Wisconsin.
Each year, a new Applefest button is selected from designs submitted by La Crescent-Hokah Elementary, Middle, and High School students. The proceeds from the sale of these buttons help support fest and its community projects.
Inspired by the St. Paul Winter Carnival Klondike Kates, the Apple Annie Follies and Contest originated in 1985 by the Apple Fest Board of Directors. Directors Sam and Bev Jiardina were the coordinators of the first Apple Annie Follies & Contest which was held at the Eagles Club in La Crescent.
The three day Applefest weekend is a culmination of a year of planning and hard work and includes activities such as a Kiddie Parade, Carnival, Apple Pie Stand, President's Reception and Queen Coronation, Pancake Breakfast, King Apple Parade, Craft Show, entertainment in the King Apple (Beer) Tent and the Johnny Appleseed (Family) Tent. Applefest is always held on the 3rd full weekend in September. (A full weekend means both Saturday and Sunday occur in September).
The La Crescent Apple Festival, Inc. has been an important part of La Crescent's history and will continue the tradition in the years to come.
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