JACKSON — The 80th annual Jackson Apple Festival returned this year after taking a hiatus in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Festival-goers ventured out to the Apple Festival to make memories while the global health pandemic continued in the background.

The festival had its five-day run, which began on Tuesday, Sept. 21, and ended on Saturday, Sept. 25.

The reigning Apple Peeling Queen, Betty Tilley, once again emerged victorious in the apple-peeling contest held in the afternoon Tuesday, Sept. 21.

Many have tried to out “peel” her over the years, but Tilley took home first place with an apple peeling that measured 62 inches long. Tilley’s apple peeling measured 63 inches long in 2019.

Claiming second place was Tammy Kent with 48.5 inches, while Tim Tilley got third with 42.5 inches.

Later Tuesday, opening ceremonies were held on the Bellisio Foods Main Stage.

The Jackson High School Marching Band then marched up the street and gathered in front of the stage to play a hand full of songs for those in attendance.

Next, Jackson Apple Festival President Brandon Davis approached the mic to welcome everyone to the festival. Davis noted that the festival is a 365-day project made possible by the hard work of the members of Jackson Area Festival and Events (JAFE) Committee.

He then invited Jackson Mayor Randy Evans up to say a few words, and he said, “I hope you have a good time and hope the weather holds out.”

Davis then introduced two community outreach representatives from around the state. He also accepted commendations and letters from those individuals on behalf of the festival.

Jackson County Health Commissioner Kevin Aston then took to the stage and stated that he, along with the Jackson County Health Department, was happy that the Jackson Apple Festival was going forward this year.

Aston added that the health department doesn’t want to close down events, they want to say “yes” to events happening. He reminded that folks should social distance (six feet) as much as they could, that they could wear a mask, to keep their hands clean, and he encouraged festivalgoers to get vaccinated.

He also spoke about a partnership between the Jackson County Health Department, Holzer Health Systems, Adena Health System and King’s Daughters Medical Center to offer walk-in COVID-19 vaccines during the festival.

Up next were the 2021 Jackson Apple Festival Queen and Court introductions. Queen Kaydee Brown, First Attendant Kirsten Clark, and Second Attendant McKinley Morris, along with 2019 Little Miss Apple Festival Kennedy Knittel, spoke to the crowd.

2021 Jackson Apple Festival Grand Marshal Randy Heath said a few words after the queen and court. He thanked JAFE and said that being chosen as grand marshal was one of the greatest honors of his life.

Heath then had the honor of “re-crowning” the 2021 Jackson Apple Festival Queen and Court.

The opening ceremony then concluded with the cutting of the festival ribbon, which was simultaneously cut by Davis, Evans, Heath, Brown, Clark, Morris and Knittel.

Also Tuesday afternoon, the booth and window display judging took place, with Westview School claiming first place honors for their booth, while Southview School took second and Aeron Johnson Photo Studio got third. The window display winners were The Healing Hippie with first place and Picture Perfect taking second place.

A large crowd of festival-goers gathered around the main stage Tuesday evening to enjoy the ever-so-popular lip-sync contest.

First place winners in the age 3-13 category were the team of Emily Wiggins, Kiersten Synder, Bralee Lyons, Haley Ross and Tyler Wiggins. Second place went to Kiptyn Kelley, while a group made up of Kate Stockmeister, Ellie Parker and Reagen Farrar took third place.

Jeri Basiden claimed first place in the age 14 and up category. Second place went to Mary McGuire, and third place went to the duo of Elder Hood and Elder Bangerter.

Festival-goers attending the Apple Festival on Wednesday, Sept. 22, found an unforgiving rain that left everyone and everything wet and soggy.

Wednesday of the festival, “Kids Day,” featured a school parade, and many contests were held throughout the day. Despite the pouring rain Wednesday morning, the school parade marched on.

However, the rain caused the cancelation of the Columbus Zoo’s animal presentation. It also delayed the opening of rides, which many parents were upset about because Adena Health Systems had sponsored free rides from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. that afternoon.

The rain did eventually let up and some rides opened, but a drizzle returned during the opening parade in the evening.

Wednesday evening wrapped up with the “Jackson Apple Festival Got Talent” contest. First place went to Mikala Lodwick, second place went to Derrick Allison and third place went to Tyler Wiggins.

The fun continued on Thursday with parents trying their hand at the baby stroller race.

In 2019, longtime baby doll, Elvis, used for the race was retired. The committee announced that year that a new baby doll named Lionel Richie was taking over.

Nora Durham took first place this year in the baby stroller race. Coming in second place was Jeff Francis, and Marline Maynard got third place.

Following the baby stroller race, was the baby crawling contest. The winners of the baby crawling contest were 10-month-old Krymsyn Boggs, who crawled their way to first place, while 8-month-old Thunder Collins claimed second place.

The evening music was a tribute to Jimmy Buffet as the band “Parrots of the Caribbean” performed on the main stage.

A beautiful, cool crisp fall evening greeted festival-goers attending the festival on Friday, Sept. 24.

Everyone gathered to listen to a man whose reign of signature songs includes 10 number one singles and 26 Top 40 hits.

That man — Phil Vassar, who is a piano-playing singer and songwriter from Nashville, TN, drew a huge crowd around the Bellisio Foods Stage in downtown Jackson. He played for several hours.

Saturday (9-25-21) of the festival, which was the final day, featured a large slate of events.

Bright and early, the 8th annual Kiwanis Apple 5K Run/Walk was held. The top male finisher was 52-year-old Rob Ervin. He finished the 5K with a time of 19:09. The top female finisher was 23-year-old Emma Newsom. She finished the 5K with a time of 23:17.

A pretty baby contest was held up the street later on the Bellisio Foods Main Stage. Several boys and girls competed in the contest. At the end of the contest, Beckham Oliver was named the 2021 Little Mr. Appleseed, while Amara Morris was named 2021 Little Miss Appleseed.

Once the baby contest wrapped up, it was time for the Top 10 Little Miss Apple Festival Queen Contest. Each of the little girls answered a series of questions during the contest. Once all of the scores were tallied up, Hadly House, daughter of Brandon and Katie House, was named the 2021 Little Miss Apple Festival Queen.

There was a brief intermission during the top 10 contest, for the Hog Wild presentation of winners.

People’s Choice went to the Jackson County Banking Center (Vinton County National Bank — VCNB) and their hog — Harry Potter Hogwartz.

Most Creative/Original went to Piggly Wiggly of Oak Hill and their hog — 1941 Premier of “Dumbo” pig.

Top Hog and Most Facebook Likes went to Dakota’s Jackson and their hog — Petunia.

These pigs, along with 36 others, collected a total of $7,198.75 for this year’s Hog Wild Contest. Proceeds go toward local scholarship and youth programs.

There was also a band show held at Alumni Stadium and a Cruise-in at Manpower Park.

The rest of the day featured a few bands, as festival-goers crowded the downtown streets of Jackson. The highlight of Saturday is always the Grand Finale Parade at dark. The lit parade featured over 120 units this year.

The festival closed at 11 p.m. Saturday and by Monday, Sept. 27, it was like magic as the downtown street returned to normal. The festival will return for its 81st year the week of Sept. 20-24, 2022.

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