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I can’t believe it IS butter: Apple Butter Festival celebrates 55th year

The satisfying sound of crunching leaves beneath shoes, the sight of warm pumpkin spice lattes clutched in hands everywhere and the scents of apple and cool, crisp air littered the senses on Saturday, Oct. 5 at the 55th Apple Butter Festival.

It almost seemed as if fall had finally come.

The annual festival rung in the season this past weekend, and Miami nutrition professor Nancy Parkinson stepped up to run it for the fourth year in a row. 

“All the profits go to the upkeep of all these [historical] buildings.” Parkinson said, pointing out several landmarks that surround Hueston Woods, like the original Oxford Townhouse where they originally held town meetings back in the early days. 

Other landmarks that benefit from the festival profits are the Doty Homestead and the Dewitt Log Cabin that the Oxford Museum Association cares for.

“My husband is with the Oxford Museum Association, and we are able to teach the nutrition message and also preserve history,” Parkinson said.

Parkinson’s students helped her organize the festival. From advertising to pricing and even making the apple butter, she involved her students every step of the way. 

“It probably takes us less than a month to get prepared,” Parkinson said. “But Oxford starts planning in the summer.”

Parkinson and her husband bought the apples on Labor Day and froze them until about ten days before the festival to let them thaw. Parkinson bought 270 pounds of apples and 12 gallons of apple cider, and that was only for the free samples that were offered. 

At the festival, there were live demonstrations of the apple butter making process led by students, and Parkinson acted as narrator and explained the rundown to the curious spectators that passed by.

The festival isn’t held just to celebrate the fall delicacy it’s named for. It is also for local merchants to come out and showcase their products and trade. People sold soap, their published books, art and even handmade welded bumper stickers.

Joy Stapleton, former park ranger for Hamilton County, set up shop for the third year in a row selling her homemade jewelry — her shop coined Joy’s Jewels. She is a self-taught jeweler and has been practicing the craft for 11 years. She makes an effort to come to every festival Oxford puts on.

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“I love the atmosphere,” Stapelton said. “I love the people. I tell everyone it’s one of my favorite shows.”

Another section of the festival was the alpaca petting zoo put on by the Howard Family Ranch. Cindy Howard set up shop selling plush alpaca dolls and the yarn that she makes once a year out of their fleece. 

Their farm, based in Hamilton, has 60 alpacas, six llamas and various other farm animals like horses and cows. The Oxford Museum Association came to them and invited them for the first time to showcase their lively livestock. Some alpacas walked around the festival for people to take pictures of or to cuddle up with.

All ages came out for the event. Groups of college students and Oxford locals came together to celebrate the fall delicacy and to break bread (with apple butter slathered on it, of course). 

Oxford locals Seth and Bethany Cantwell make an effort to come to every Hueston Woods festival.

“It’s something to do and it’s close [to home],” Bethany Cantwell said. “And we like to support local artists.”

Students travelled the festival in small groups, stopping at every pop-up shop and perusing the historical buildings on display.

Sophomore Andrew Martinez had not heard of the festival until earlier that week and went with his group of friends.

“I liked seeing all of the people who spend their entire lives on their trade,” Martinez said. “And they go to places like this to share it with everybody. When you asked them questions, they were so passionate with their answers.”

Martinez said he is open to attending more festivals and events in Oxford like this.

“I feel like a lot of people complain about there being nothing to do in Oxford,” Martinez said. “But if you look hard enough, you’ll find random events like this.”