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Apple cider at center of Sycamore History Museum’s Fall Festival

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SYCAMORE – Not even flood warnings could keep the Sycamore History Museum’s Fall Festival from happening last weekend.

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The annual outdoor festival – which includes popular activities such as making apple cider – originally was set for Saturday afternoon at the museum, 1730 N. Main St., but it was postponed to Sunday because of inclement weather.

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Sycamore History Museum volunteer and gardening coordinator Bill Mitchell said that’s a first in the eight years the autumn festival has been happening.

Mitchell said the event usually draws a crowd of about 100 people. He said less than a quarter of that amount were able to come this year, since other events such as various sports set for Saturday also were postponed and made up Sunday.

However, Mitchell said he and other attendees still were going to make about 10 gallons of apple cider, with about 15 bushels of apples donated by Jonamac Apple Orchard in Malta. The cider is made now so it can be pasteurized in time for this year’s city winter festival.

Although making cider is more mechanized these days, Mitchell said the process still is the same: clean the apples, crush them into a pulp, strain the pulp so it releases cider into containers, and set aside those containers to be pasteurized later.

“It’s just another feature of the harvest season that is very rich with history, all the way from ancient peoples through England through the United States, the early Americans and Johnny Appleseed and all of the lore of apples that has carried us through today,” Mitchell said.

Genoa resident Lisa Havener said she brought her 12-year-old son, Gavin, to the event because he is interested in how things are made. She said they also have been to similar festivals, such as Pioneer Day in Genoa, because there were similar demonstrations there.

Havener said they also were interested in learning more about where they live. She said events such as Fall Festival provide good opportunities for that kind of practical education for her son.

“I mean, right now, he’s already saying things he’s going to tell his dad when he sees him about why the garden’s not growing because of things we learned here,” Havener said.

Carol Meeks, president of the Sycamore History Museum board of directors, said teaching local history within the community – especially to children – with hands-on activities such as making apple cider always is an important goal for the museum.

She said it’s important to keep Sycamore’s rich history alive and to have kids continue to understand and appreciate where the community has been and where it’s going.

“The more kids can learn from that history, the better citizens they are going to be,” Meeks said. “So we really value that part of what we do.”

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