Sunday, October 5, 2008, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. is the day to celebrate apples in historic Steilacoom. The 35th annual Apple Squeeze will be held on Lafayette Street at the Wilkes Street intersection and is a great event for all ages. A Steilacoom tradition since 1973, the event benefits the Steilacoom Historical Museum Association which maintains the Nathaniel Orr Pioneer Home Site and the Bair Drug & Hardware Store. The Steilacoom squeeze was the first in the region and became a model for other communities to follow.
The Apple Squeeze features volunteers with hand-operated cider presses for pressing apples into cider the old fashioned way. A few of the volunteers have been involved since the first squeeze. Each year plaques are awarded to the pressmen to commemorate their participation in that year’s event and are attached to the presses. One can see at a glance how long that press has been at the Squeeze.
Washed apples from bins of Jonagolds, Galas, Red Delicious and others are combined and run through the presses for a delicious blend of flavors. The leftover apple mash goes back to the farm for horses and cows to munch – recycling in the best sense of the word. For those not inclined to squeeze the cider themselves, jugs of fresh award winning cider from Lattin’s Country Cider Mill in Olympia will also be sold.
Three bands will furnish toe-tapping music all day. Spot the Dog, Kristi and Steve Nebel, and John Hoover will play and sing at the post office steps at Wilkes and Lafayette Streets. In addition, quality handcraft booths and a variety of food booths will line Lafayette Street. Crafts will include woodworking, fabric art, vintage containers with plants, jewelry, fine arts and others. Many of the food booths relate to the apple with apple pie, hot apple butter on bread, caramel apples, hot spiced cider and apple fritters being on the day’s menu. Activities for children will include games, pumpkin walks, pumpkin painting and pony rides from noon to 4 p.m.
One of the most interesting booths on the street is the apple identification booth, manned by several local pomologists. Bring your unknown apple with leaves attached and they will help identify the variety and instruct the best way to grow and care for the tree. Steilacoom pioneer Nathaniel Orr learned orchard management in Oregon after traveling the Oregon Trail and before he came to Steilacoom. He was responsible for many orchards in the developing pioneer town and some of his trees survive in Steilacoom today making the apple connection to the history of this area very real.
While this event is sponsored by and benefits the Museum, other community groups participate as well. The Steilacoom High School Key Club, a community service student group organizes the children’s games. Local Boy Scout Troop #71 runs a press and also works in the press area. Local school administrators work the apple bins, keeping the apples coming to the pressmen. The help from these groups makes this truly a community event.
While in town, look for the many unique scarecrows around Steilacoom competing for prizes. The scarecrows will be up through the month of October. Leaning against lamp posts or propped up on bales of hay, they provide a fitting ambiance for celebrating autumn in Steilacoom.
For more information contact the Steilacoom Historical Museum at 253-584-4133.