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Parade and carnival help River Heights celebrate its annual Apple Days

September 12th, 2011 Posted in Arts and Life

By Lindsay Nemelka

RIVER HEIGHTS – This year’s annual Apple Days celebration was attended by more than just the city’s local residents. People have started to catch on that “this is the parade to go to,” remarked Apple Days Committee Head Lisa Ellis. We are known for having “the biggest parade in the littlest town.” This was apparent Saturday when there was an abundant amount of squealing children standing on street corners with grocery sacks half full of candy.

River Heights is known for their tight-knit community and the largest horticulture business in Cache County, Zollinger Fruit & Tree Farm, where they grow 13 varieties of apples. Apple Days is named as such even if the apples don’t officially come on until October.

But Apple Days didn’t always contain apples, or fun either, according to Ellis. Back before she took over the committee in 1998, the River Heights celebration was known as the Food and Fun Festival. Ellis remembers a time when the festival’s highlight was trying an assortment of exotic cheeses from around the world. So when she was asked to be in charge she made changes starting with renaming the celebration to Apple Days.

At first, the committee tried to make Apple Days a big event. Their goal was to get everybody to mark Apple Days on their calendars and say they can’t miss it. They had all sorts of little crafts and booths because they wanted the whole valley to come. But being overwhelmed the committee decided to cut back and cater to the local residents more.

“We don’t need to be the city celebration for the whole valley, just the city celebration for River Heights,” said Ellis. Doing just that gives the annual celebration that special at-home feel and has attracted people from all across the valley.

Apple Days kicked off this year with the Dean Ellis Memorial Doubles Tennis Tournament and a movie night in the Heber Olson Park. The theme for 2011 was displayed on a banner at the start of the parade lead by U.S. Army troops, “America… never forget!” This year the parade grew to 60 entries and circled 10 blocks of River Heights. Entries varied from a horseback bride, River Heights’ Royalty Megan Hendrickson and her attendants, to Just Jumpin’ jump-rope routines to the song Cotton-Eyed Joe. The crowd seemed to particularly enjoy the procession of old-fashioned cars that puttered through the parade, such as a 1951 Jeep.

The carnival has grown and the games and rides are now free. There were amazing raffle prizes like bikes, treadmills and designer diaper bags. Barrel train rides, face painting, pony rides, and four different bounce houses attracted tons of families, and personalized Army dog tags were among the kiddy favorites this year.

One child particularly enjoyed the Cache County Sheriff’s Office Beer Goggle Challenge as he failed repeatedly to throw the bean bags in the right direction, due to the goggles over his eyes, simulating perception when drinking. There was also a small pavilion set up in the park exhibiting River Heights’ artifacts from the Annette Smith Historical Museum. Residents stopped in to eye pieces such as a 1904 bread-maker and an oddly shaped fire extinguisher from the early 1900’s.

“This was the thirteenth Apple Days and it’s just grown into something I feel very proud of,” said Ellis. Additional events included a 5K Apple Run, Children’s Bicycle Barrel Races, Star Search Talent Contest, and the Apple Darlings Dance Performance.

River Heights isn’t just about coming together to celebrate, but also about being there for each other, commented Ellis. She told a story about one year in Zollinger’s fruit farm when an early freeze was going to wipe out the whole crop of apples. Even though it was cold, rainy and muddy, the whole town gathered to help pick the crop in one night. The next week in church, Zollinger said he knew Apple Days had passed, “but the real Apple Days was last night.”

That’s what the town is really about, says Ellis. “It can become not a day, but a feeling.”


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