By Ashley South
The fourth annual Apple Festival took place on Sept. 28 at the Troy Museum. With multiple activities and music throughout the day, the Apple Festival welcomed over 600 visitors and community members. “We host the apple festival as a way to celebrate our local fruit growing heritage, while at the same time, sharing resources and advice on how to live and grow food safely with our bear neighbors,” said Shawna Kelsey, creator of the Apple Festival and Community Development Director at the Yaak Valley Forest Council.
This year, the Apple Press was going non-stop during the festival, pressing over 75 gallons of fresh pressed apples. The pulp was given to individuals to be used as pig food or compost.
“Gathering and pressing local apples helps to keep the bears and other animals safe from human interaction in the fall when everything is hungry,” said Anthony South, an apple press volunteer.
The apple press is available for community use at scheduled events including the Troy Farmers Market in September, the Yaak School Harvest Festival, and, normally, the Harvest Festival in Libby. The press is also used during Morrison Elementary’s afterschool program, following a neighborhood apple picking day on Riverside Ave. At this time, the apple press is not available to rent.
Along with the apple press, there was an apple pie contest. “We had nine entries this year (five people), all in the adult category. The judges had a difficult task determining the different levels of quality of the excellent selection of flaky crusts, beautiful decorations, and perfectly spiced fillings. We did not have any junior entries. Hopefully next year we will have more adult entries and some youth as well,” said Kelsey. Prizes were awarded for first and second place, Karyn Larsen won first place with her lattice topped apple pie, and Carol Lisle took second place with a beautifully decorated, flaky apple pie.
There were 32 booths spread throughout the museum lawn that sold hand crafted and locally grown goods including fresh vegetables, baked goods, pies, hand crafted aprons, and caramel apples.
The raffle was also exciting for everyone this year, there were multiple SCAT belts, bear spray vouchers, bear proof garbage cans, and a full gift bag from Defenders of Wildlife that were given away. To enter the free raffle, contestants had to complete three tasks at the market which included both kids’ activities and bear aware activities.
The Troy Farmers Market was the event that led to the craton of Troy’s Apple Festival. This summer marked the sixth year of the Troy Farmer’s Market. After a slow start with only a few vendors during the first couple years, the market has seen steady growth, now averaging 12 vendors per week and about $1500 in sales. All of the items available at the market are home grown or home made with a focus on fresh fruit and vegetables grown using organic practices. With the help of the Yaak Valley Forest Council, an active farmers market board, and the wonderfully consistent vendors and loyal customers, the market has become a lively, family-friendly weekly gathering place where health and community are nurtured. The regular market season runs from June through Sept. with a special market on Oct. 19, indoors at the Troy Community Baptist Church, from 3:30 until 6:30 p.m. “We call that our Fall Bounty Market because our vendors will come loaded with their fall crops,” said Kelsey
The Apple Festival provides a fun atmosphere for learning about wildlife safety. A community that is well informed about bear spray, electric fencing, and safe camp and home sites will have less negative interactions with wildlife, keeping people, homes, livestock, gardens, and fruit trees safer.
“I love seeing all types of people come together around good food, enjoying visiting with their neighbors, eating pie, listening to music and pressing cider,” said Kelsey.
The sponsors that made the Festival a success were Yaak Valley Forest Council, Vital Ground, Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks, Defenders of Wildlife, Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee, Booze and Bait, SCATbelt, and the Troy Farmers Market. Kelsey and the sponsors hope that the Apple Festival will be an ongoing and growing annual tradition in Troy.