Apple Days Festival celebrates community, family on post

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“This is a thank you to families and a thank you to the community,” said Art Jacob, PPKMS Operations on Fort Riley, who was in operating the command tent for the 11th annual Fall Apple Days Festival in Fort Riley on Saturday.

“Anything and everything out here is family oriented,” Jacob stated.

The festival was expecting over 7000 people to show up. Volunteers made more than 2000 pies to sell, around 800 of which preordered before the festival even began.

“The Festival started in the mid-1980’s, though the first recorded pie sale was in 1987 with only about 60 pie sales. It has grown, in 2000 it was combined with the Fort Riley Open House and Fall Festival and become Fall Apple Days Festival.” Jacob said.

In charge of the pies are two ladies known as the Pie Queens, Monika McDwyer, a third year volunteer and Kim Grubbs, a first year volunteer. The Pie Queens are responsible for getting all the supplies, making sure everything is set up and runs smoothly. This process starts way back in May and pre-sales start in early August. Helping the Pie Queens with their work is the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps, or JROTC, who help run the pie tents and grab the customers’ orders.

“We see this as a chance to give back to the people who take care of us,” stated Kim Grubbs.

“It’s great to see all the families. Everyone’s always happy and in a good mood,” finished Monika McDwyer.

Though pies are not the only thing at the festival.

“We’ve got 37 separate events on main post Fort Riley anything form laser ranges, obstacle courses, A.T.V. rides, static display of vehicles and historic reenactment characters to include General Grant and General Custer,” Jacob stated.

Many of the static vehicles included M1 Tanks, Buffalo Bradleys, different kinds of helicopters, as well as many types of support vehicles such as Humvees.

“Additions this year are a rock climbing wall, a treasure hunt, two additional helicopters and much, much more,” Jacob added.

Throughout the day, crowds gathered to watch one of the main events of the festival, the 1st Infantry’s Calvary Tactics Demonstration Team, who also act as the color guard. This team practices both horseback speed and agility by running obstacle courses, mounted saber duels, even mounted firing. The Calvary group does many other events for the 1st Infantry as well, including parades and the color guard for President Obama’s Inaugural address.

“I grew up on horses, this is what I do,” said Sergeant Tommy Evans, one of the lead riders of the Calvary.

Other events included a five year tradition with the petting zoo. The petting zoo contained all sorts of animals such as turkeys, llamas, goats and ducks, including the younger version of all the animals.

“We love watching the interactions with the kids and the animals. Even watching the interactions between adults and animals can be entertaining,” said Richard Wolf, who owns and operates the small zoo with his wife Carleen.

“We started nine years ago with just two horses and two goats, now we have more animals than you see here.” Carleen said.

There was also plenty of food for the guests who worked up an appetite, at the food tent. The food tent had everything from classic carnival food such as funnel cakes, hot dogs, and nachos to the more exotic such as fried rice, beer tacos, and grilled cheese.

Visitors had a chance to see an explosive ordnance disposal up close, a robot that disables roadside bombs and IEDs. Visitors got to shake the robotic hand and let it take items from their hands, such as pens, keys, or other small items.

Some of the guests chose to participate in the paintball target shooting. The training allowed the participants to fire a paintball AK-47 at mock boards of animals such as lions and tigers, even sharks and snakes.

Rich Kehoe, a supervisor for Training Aid Device Simulators and Simulations, said “This is our second year and it’s always been a big hit.”

Not only were the families looking forward to the Fall Apple Day Festival, but many soldiers where as well. Michel Gibson, who even though he was “volun-told” to help with odd jobs at the festival, said he still expected “good times, good fun and first class entertainment,” when Fort Riley throws an event.

“The civilians give us encouragement and they support us,” Gibson said. “They give us pride in the things we do, so for us to give back and show just a little bit of the appreciation that we get, it means the world to us.”

“It’s a great way to spend time with the family,” said supply sergeant and volunteer Joslyn Skinner, who spent a good portion of the day with her three year old daughter at the petting zoo. “The Festival continues to grow and gets better and better each year.”

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