Lisbon prepares for 51st annual Johnny Appleseed Festival

LISBON — You would never know it by the recent heat wave, but the Johnny Appleseed Festival is just around the corner.

The 51st version of the fall festival will be held the weekend of Sept. 15-16, and Marilyn McCullough once again hopes for dry weather and mild temperatures.

“So much depends on the weather,” said McCullough, who is director of the Lisbon Area Chamber of Commerce, which assumed responsibility for putting on the JAF in 2007.

Before that, a group of residents started the JAF in 1967 to capitalize on Lisbon’s connection with Johnny Appleseed, whose real name is Johnny Chapman. After serving an apprenticeship with a neighbor farmer who grew apples, Chapman left his Massachusetts home in 1792. He roamed as far west as Indiana, starting apple orchards in communities along the way, including Lisbon.

So, not surprisingly, the emphasis remains on all things apple, starting with Johnny Appleseed. A wooden figure of Johnny Chapman carved by chainsaw greets festival-goers in the town square, and local resident Sonny Reynolds, who portrays him, can be seen walking about.

For most, it is all about the food, especially apple food products, such as apple fritters, apple dumplings, apple pie, apple ice cream, apple butter, apple cider and, of course, apples. Most of these products are sold by community organizations, such as the Lisbon Lions Club and Lisbon Grange.

One of the most popular has been apple butter. The Yellow Creek Grange and the large copper kettle they used to make apple butter was was a fixture at the JAF during the first 49 years, but the Grange had to end its participation in 2017 because all of the key participants were in their 90s and unable to continue.

The chamber found a replacement in Wholesome Valley Farms of Wilmot in Ohio’s Amish country. McCullough said they underestimated how much people look forward to buying apple butter at the JAF and ran out.

“They had no idea the crowd we draw, so this year they are prepared,” she said.

For those looking for something other than apple butter, McCullough said there will be 30 vendors selling more traditional festival fare.

A full schedule of live entertainment is also planned both days. McCullough is particularly excited about the New Wave Nation band that performs from 8-11 p.m. Sept. 15. “They were a good bit of money, but they usually pack ’em in where they play,” she said.

Back by popular demand is the JAF Has Talent Show. “That was a great addition last year,” with more than 20 people participating, she said.

For those looking for other things to do there is a car show, spinning demonstration, quilt show, photography show, a special operations demonstration by ATG, a pet parade, art show, 5K run, ice cream eating contest, Fun Bingo, and craft vendors. For the children, there are amusement rides, a free pedal tractor contest and games.

For a full list of time and location of all events go to the JAF’s Facebook page or look for the schedule in the Morning Journal.

McCullough said the grand marshal for this year’s parade is Lori Sweeney, who has served as parade director for years. “So this year she gets to sit back and enjoy the parade,” she said.

For the first time ever no commemorative JAF plate was produced. “We just kept losing money on them for years. People just don’t collect that stuff any more,” McCullough said.

As usual, the JAF relies on an army of volunteers and event sponsors, which include the Columbiana County Park District, Estherlee Fence Co., county Senior Services, the Lions Club, Home Savings Bank, Sandy Beaver Insurance, Social 45, Hall’s of Fame, SFI Properties, Huffman Excavating, West Point Ladies Lions Club, Lisbon Ruritans, Utica Midstream, Scullion Vision, Lisbon Eagles, Camera Club, county Children Services, R.L. Craig, S.D. Nold Inc., Lisbon Veterinary Clinic, Eells-Leggett-Stauffer Funeral Home, Joe Csonka, Subway, Richardson Monuments, Ray Lewis Co., Lisbon Grange, Consumers National Bank, Holloway Insurance and Lisbon Eagles, Bye & Bye Hardware, Daylily, Dashing Divas, and Continuing Health Care of Lisbon.