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AppleJack Harvest Festival starts this weekend

Julie Rach
Nebraska City News-Press

This year’s AppleJack Harvest Festival will have a slightly different look and feel than in the past. Given the constraints of the COVID-19 emergency, festival organizers decided to present the event in a different format in 2020: four weekends of celebration in place of one three-day weekend in mid- to late September.

Nebraska City Tourism and Commerce Executive Director Amy Allgood thinks an extended festival might work better for today’s busy families.

"Having the festival over four weekends allows people the opportunity to experience AppleJack even with their busy schedules,” she said. “We feel people are coming, whether we’re ready or not,” she said, “and we wanted to put a united plan together and prepare both for visitors and for our community,” she said.

Allgood added that downtown bumpouts will feature signs reminding guests and residents of the importance of masking and social distancing during the celebration.

The first weekend of the festival, Sept. 18 through 20, will have the theme, “Any Way You Slice It,” and will feature festival favorites, including the fun run, the parade (with possibly an extended route to allow for social distancing among spectators), and the water barrel fights on Central Avenue on Saturday afternoon.

The MRB-Lewis and Clark Center will be hosting Lewis and Clark Reunion No. 13, with costumed re-enactors, guest speakers, and other special events.

Wildwood Historic House, 420 Steinhart Park Rd., will have carver Chris Dewey showcasing some of his work from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and from 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Extreme Bull Riding will also be returning in 2020, and festival organizers believe it will be bigger and better than ever because bull riders have had fewer chances to compete this year.

Sunday’s events include the River City Classics Car Show and the Eagles Club Antique Tractor Show. Sunday will also feature the return of Ulbrick’s chicken dinner at St. Benedict’s Catholic Church. Meal orders must be placed by Sept. 19 and cost $12. Meals are takeout only. This year’s meal is sold out at 600 orders, according to organizers.

For the second weekend of the festival, Sept. 26 and 27, organizers want to emphasize overnight stays for out-of-town visitors, who will also be encouraged to visit downtown Nebraska City to shop and local wineries and orchards to enjoy harvest events.

Sunday, Sept. 27, will see the return of the Nebraska Bloody Mary State Championship, which is being added to the AppleJack mix ahead of the 2021 Arbor Day festivities. This year's championship, which was postponed in April, will take place at Hidden Falls: The Camp, 2005 4th Corso.

The third weekend of the AppleJack Harvest Festival, Oct. 3 and 4, “Food Glorious Food,” will start a two-weekend food festival for visitors and residents. The annual NCTC Pancake Feed, featuring the Pancake Man, is set for Saturday, Oct. 3, at the Sunken Parking Lot in the 700 block of Central Avenue.

Flapjacks will be flipping and flying from 8 a.m. to noon.

Oct. 3 will also be the date that A Taste of AppleJack All Things Apple contestants can serve up their best apple-themed recipes for a chance to compete at the World Food Championships.

The contest will take place at the Historic Barns at Arbor Day Farm from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. 

Festival organizers are also preparing a special Foodie Passport that will map out the best places to go for all things apple.

The final weekend of the festival, Oct. 10 and 11, will see another qualifying event for the World Food Championship: the  first Nebraska City Food Truck Street Fair.

See the festival schedule for details on particular events, or visit gonebraskacity.com/festival/apple-jack-festival for the most up-to-date festival information.