The apple trees may be long gone from Cory, but the town’s annual festival was in full bloom this weekend.
Wrapped in Sunday sunshine, a breeze blew 63 degrees of cool autumn air into festival flags around the midway. Thousands of visitors milled about the grassy lots west of town, vacant every day of the year but three that are dedicated to the Cory Apple Festival.
Shane Wiram, president of the Cory Community Service Board, said the festival serves as a fundraiser for the community’s volunteer fire department. Inside the fire house, a crowd packed around the tables for plates of chicken, mashed potatoes and noodles.
“It’s a good year,” he said Sunday afternoon, estimating Saturday’s attendance to have been 10,000. Friday’s activities drew about 3,000 to Cory and Sunday about 5,000, he said.
Fellow board member Lloyd Hendrix said more than 200 vendors participated this year, and the spectacular fall weather was key to the event’s success. The festival generates anywhere from $15,000 to $40,000 for the town, and success depends largely on the weather, he explained.
The Cory Apple Festival was born in 1970, just three years after closure of the Cory School, which sat dozens of feet from the modern fire house. According to the festival’s website, www.coryapplefest.com, the town of Cory was founded in 1872 and bustled by 1900 with blacksmiths, druggists, saloons and hotels. In the early 1920s, the Cory Orchards were founded by the Doud family. By 1929, the orchards had grown from 40 to 280 acres and produced 75,000 to 100,000 bushels a year. The high school’s basketball team was known as the Cory Apple Boys, and the orchards operated through 1965 as members of the Doud family died off. The orchards were soon closed down, as was the school in 1967.
But memories remain, and for partners in the Bad Apple Saloon project, they’re still very much alive.
Cooking 1-pound pork chops in a large smoker, Brandy Jackson said the weekend had boomed with activity, and the community is very supportive of their restoration project.
The group has secured the International Order of Odd Fellows building situated in the town’s heart, Clear Creek Lodge No. 449, which was built in 1897. The two-story, red brick building faces McCullough Feed and Grain to the east and the U.S. Post Office to the north, and has been vacant for decades.
Kelly Fischer said he purchased the property from the McCullough family, who had purchased it from the Odd Fellows organization years ago. The group hopes to open a restaurant and pub some time in 2014, and is under no illusions about the work involved in the project. This winter they’ll be replacing windows and doing interior work, a piece at a time, he said.
To the south, a music stage is covered by a roof and surrounded by seating. But years ago, Frosty’s Barber Shop once stood there. As part of the project, the group plans to reconstruct a barber shop facade in front of the music venue, which will serve as an outdoor entry to parties.
“Frosty’s Barber Shop was a famous landmark in Cory for years,” Fischer said.
More than 400 people came to the sheltered stage for Saturday night’s band, Brian Mounts and the Lonely Riders, he said. Similar crowds showed up for Mullet Over on Friday and Crook Creek Saturday afternoon.
“This is our fourth year to have live music, and it keeps getting bigger,” he said.
Meanwhile, George Hoopingarner, 17, worked the carousel for Shortline Amusements. Kids rode horses up and down to music as their parents watched.
“It was non-stop all day yesterday,” he said, with caramel apple stands behind him.
By 3 p.m. the temperatures remained in the 60s and the town crowded along the streets as a parade served as closure to another year’s festivities.
Brian Boyce can be reached at 812-231-4253 or firstname.lastname@example.org.