Apple pie was cut, judged and eaten, cider was pressed, applesauce was slurped, Lander apples and hard cider sampled, and a fun time was had by over 600 people at the Lander Pioneer Museum Apple Fest 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 which 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 apple fest was created.
The Lander’s best apple pie contest had an adult and a kid’s category this year. In the kid’s contest young baker Isaiah Webb, age 12, won first place and a ribbon along with a $15 cash Prize. Second place went to Alex Wise, age 11, for his pie. He won a $10 cash prize and a ribbon. Third place was won by C.C. Velarde’s pie who took home a museum store gift certificate and a ribbon.
In the adult category Cindy Herman from Lander won first place for apple pie. She won $60 and a ribbon. Cheryl Wise of Lander won second for her pie. She won a $35 prize and a ribbon. Chironne Torrez took third, winning a $25 prize and ribbon.
The judges had a tough time picking the winners, declaring all the pies were good.
“It was hard duty,” said judge Vince Tropea with his tongue firmly in cheek. “There are some great bakers here. I’ll have to be rolled home in a wheelbarrow now!,” Tropea said.
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. The Lander High School National Honor Society kids helped run the contest, and dozens of kids lined up with a cup of sauce to slurp away. Braxton Sanders, age 3 won the 5 and under contest. Westley Warren, age 11 won the 5 to 9 competition and Finn Petersen, age 11 won the 10 to 14 age group.
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 from Jackson came to the apple fest with kegs of hard cider he produces from Lander apples. Very popular in Jackson, there was a long a long line to get a taste of the tart hard cider. The cider is also sold locally at Mr Ds.
“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 apples 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.
“It was about as nice a September day as you can get,” said Randy Wise, Director of the Lander Museum. “We were surprised at how many folks came out – but are very happy people want to come to the museum and have fun while learning about Lander’s history.”
Wise gave 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 friends 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 14 and 15. 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 at Pioneer Museum Lander Wyoming.