The Johnny Appleseed Festival is a longstanding tradition in Fort Wayne. Year-after-year families enjoy this period authentic festival that celebrates the life and time of John Chapman, otherwise known as Johnny Appleseed.
History of Johnny Appleseed
You may wonder why Fort Wayne loves Johnny Appleseed so much. Legend has it that John Chapman traveled throughout the Midwest, planting and tending to apple orchards as a business. Originally from Massachusetts, John traveled ahead of the migration and established apple orchards and then sold the trees and sometimes orchards to the settlers. John Chapman’s final resting place is in Fort Wayne, because while here, he contracted pneumonia and passed away. You can pay respect to John Chapman at his grave site located along the St. Joseph River at Johnny Appleseed Park.
The Johnny Appleseed Festival began as a part of Fort Wayne’s events that were held in 1975 in preparation of the nation’s Bicentennial in 1976, and has grown to be one of the region's leading period-authentic pioneer festivals.
What to Expect at the Johnny Appleseed Festival
Every year 250,000 people enjoy the two-day festival, and around 171 vendors include 41 food booths, 30 demonstrators, 100 crafters, numerous entertainers, a children’s game area, and Civil War re-enactors.
The festival is situated in the beautiful Johnny Appleseed Park located along the St. Joseph River. Vendors set up throughout the park, providing a fun fall atmosphere to the festival. Picnic tables and straw bales are located throughout the wooded grounds, providing perfect areas to grab some food, have a seat, and enjoy the festival.
“The Johnny Appleseed Festival appeals to a wide range of ages. The period authenticity takes people back to another era and provides not only fun but education as well. Children can visit the Trappers and Traders near Parnell [road], the military encampments along the river, and the demonstrators in the campground area to learn about the history of our nation,” according to Bridget Kelly, with the Johnny Appleseed Festival.
How to Enjoy the Johnny Appleseed Festival
In order to get the full experience of the Johnny Appleseed Festival, make sure you plan out your route through the festival.
From the food vendors, crafts, antiques, roving entertainment, children’s area, military reenactments, and the farmer’s market, you will want to plan out where you would like to go first and where your favorite food stops are located.
For the perfect time of day, plan on going early in the mornings.
“Some [visitors] come on Saturday to shop and return on Sunday with the family to eat, play the children’s games and enjoy the entertainment. Others break it up – a little shopping, a little eating, a little entertainment… And, either early or late in the day are your best bets to attend – between 11:00 AM and 2:30 PM, it can get so crowded that it’s difficult to move,” says Kelly.
Johnny Appleseed Festival Tips
Be prepared to enjoy the best of the Johnny Appleseed Festival with a few of our quick tips –
- Be sure to pick up a free brochure, and map out your game plan. With an entertainment schedule of four stages, food and vendor listings, and a map, this brochure will help you navigate the festival. Festival brochures can be found online or at the information booth at the festival.
- Wear layers – with fall just around the corner it could be cool in the morning, and warm by midday.
- Wear comfortable shoes – you will be walking a lot during the festival.
- Remember where you park! If you utilize the Memorial Coliseum parking or any of the other lots and shuttles, it is very easy to forget where you parked and where you entered the festival.
- Bring cash! If you do park in the Memorial Coliseum parking lot or some of the other lots, you will need to pay to park, and some vendors may only accept cash.
- Lastly, don’t forget that there are two areas of the festival. One off of the Memorial Coliseum parking lot, and the other in the Archer Park section. Both areas provide booths, entertainers, demonstrators and children’s areas!
The Johnny Appleseed Festival is an essential part of the Fort Wayne community. “I think it means family and friends, the end of summer and the coming of autumn, and the opportunity to partake in a unique celebration that brings together the best elements of our community,” says Kelly.
For more information on the festival and other things to do in Fort Wayne, discover Fort Wayne’s fall getaways.
Johnny Appleseed Festival
1500 E Coliseum Blvd.
Saturday, September 16 | 10:00 am – 6:00 pm
Sunday, September 17 | 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
**Cash Donations will be accepted for the Red Cross Flood Relief**