In a word, the 47th version of the Seymour Apple Festival was outstanding.
Better than outstanding.
A record-setting festival.
The best one yet.
Yes, folks, it was that good.
There are several reasons.
One would be perfect weather for all three days of the event, as rains stayed away while the temperatures were warm but not too hot.
As an analogy, it could be said the festival’s 2019 weather was much like Baby Bear’s porridge.
Another would be record crowds for all three days. In my 25 years with the festival, I’ve never seen bigger crowds on a Friday night. I’ve never seen a better crowd late on a Saturday night. In between, people were everywhere on the Seymour square, enjoying festival food, festival music, festival contests, festival conversations and general festival fun.
Need another reason?
How about a visit from the governor?
Not a club governor.
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson and his lovely wife, Teresa, visited the festival for more than an hour Saturday, arriving around 4 p.m. and staying until just past 5 p.m.
In the process, Parson shook an untold number of hands and posed for so many photographs that hundreds in Seymour have his smiling face on their cell phones. He was a festival natural — one of us. If not for his entourage of four Missouri State Highway Patrol security-team members in plain clothes, Parson easily could’ve passed as a local visiting friends at our community’s unoffi cial homecoming.
Simply stated, the Seymour Merchants’ Association, the festival’s sponsor since its inception in 1973, was thrilled with the final product.
Almost everything sold out.
First to go were the apple slushies, which were gone by 3 p.m. Saturday.
This year, the order for apple cider (used to make the tasty treat) from Marionville’s Murphy Orchards was 60 gallons, up from 40 gallons last year.
Those 60 gallons were gone by Friday night.
So, my eldest son, Rob, was recruited to make an emergency run to Marionville in search of more cider. Rob bought all they had — 50 gallons.
That was gone about five hours later.
Next to go were the apple pies and ice cream. Again, the association purchased more than the previous year.
About two hours after the apple slushies ran dry, so did the apple pies.
In Kirk Penner’s chicken shack, the smoked pork was gone by 7 p.m.
Thirty minutes later, the final barbecued chicken half was sold. In between, first the coleslaw was gone, followed by Wendel and Susan Matlock’s legendary baked beans.
That left Bev Barlow’s corndogs as the lone survivor. Ultimately, her fate was the same as the others.
Once the clock struck 9:30 p.m., the final corndog was sold. Over the course of three days, Seymour’s “Corndog Queen” made, fried and sold nearly 5,000 corndogs.
“It’s one of the best festivals, if not the best festival, that I can remember in terms of everything,” said Bob Crump, the association’s president. “We had great crowds, sales were great, the weather was great, and for the first time in the festival’s history, we had a governor visit.”
His estimate for a crowd?
“Dan, I’m not doing that, because whatever you say, I know you’ll add 10,000 to it,” Crump said with a smile.
My number is 40,000 over the three days.
The best small-town festival in the Ozarks?
Without a doubt.
There is none better.
This year proved it.
* * * * * *
Reading time, five minutes:
• Free rules. No one should have to follow them, right?
• An interesting sidebar from the festival came from the city of Oxford, Miss. Attending Saturday’s apple-peeling contest was a couple from Oxford, which is the home of the University of Mississippi, known to most as “Ole Miss.” I spotted them while emceeing the peeling. She wore an Ole Miss T-shirt and big sun hat. She wasn’t a local.
So I asked where she was from. And she told us.
After the contest, he wanted to share a story. They came to the Seymour Apple Festival after deciding a month ago to travel to northern Arkansas to pick apples, which was a “bucket list” thing for them to do once they became “empty nesters.”
After picking apples, they asked the orchard’s operator if there was an apple-themed festival in the area.
“Well, it’s a few hours away, but the best festival about apples is up in Seymour, Missouri,” the operator told them.
“Those folks know how to do it right. Everyone says that’s the best apple festival that there is.”
Then they came.
They loved the Johnny Appleseed contest. Loved the apple peeling. Stayed for the apple-baking contest results. Even posed for a picture with Jeff Rowe, who won his 15th applepeeling crown.
“We’ll be back next year,” the couple said.
• Speaking of Bev Barlow, she was very surprised Saturday when Gov. Parson presented her with a special proclamation for her festival efforts over the past four decades. Credit for the special honor goes to Terry Kelley, owner of Seymour’s Circle K Trading Post on the square’s south side, who also deserves credit for getting the governor to visit our festival.
Kelley said individual proclamations are very rare. But an exception was made for Barlow. That’s because of Kelley, whose relationship with the governor goes back to 1982, when Parson was a 26-year-old deputy sheriff in Polk County.
I could see tears welling in Bev’s eyes as she stood on the stage of the gazebo in the Seymour Downtown Park as Parson presented the special award to her.
• Other festival tidbits include the apple-baking contest having 49 entries (way up from last year) and its auction raising about $500 more than a year ago, according to the event’s chairman, Terry Penner.
For the first time, the festival’s main-stage music had a sponsor — four of them.
Again, credit for this goes to Kelley, who rounded up the quartet of local businesses, including Downtown Drug, Mr. Dent, Seymour Home Center and The Seymour Bank.
There were more than 20 entrants in the adult and youth apple-peeling contest, up from last year.
Kirk Penner said sales of the smoked pork on Friday night were at a record pace, as his booth sold half of its product that evening, something that’s never happened before.
Additionally, he said the Victory Academy of Seymour, which manned the booth that night, did an exceptional job of serving customers.
“I’ve got nothing but good to say about the job they did for us,” he said. “That’s probably the best group we’ve ever had to work on a Friday night.”
• Compliments came in droves for the appearance of the Seymour square. Credit for that goes to the city of Seymour.
“The square has never looked better than it did for this year’s festival,” Crump said.
“We appreciate everything that (City Administrator) Hillary Gintz, (City Supervisor) Mitch Plummer and all of the city workers did to make our square shine. They went way above and beyond, and that didn’t go unnoticed.”
• Politicians a plenty were present at the festival.
In addition to Parson, we also had sightings of State Rep. Hannah Kelly (who worked a shift in several booths), State Rep. Robert Ross and former State Rep. Van Kelly.
Van Kelly and Ross are suitors for the 33rd District Missouri Senate seat to be vacated at the end of 2020 by longtime office-holder Mike Cunningham, whose shoes will be nearly impossible to fill.
Nearly every county office-holder manned a shift in either Barlow’s or Penner’s booths — or both.
Dan Wehmer is the Citizen’s editor, publisher and owner. He can be reached at 417-935-2257 or via e-mail at email@example.com.