There’s just something about Fort Wayne in September that makes autumn a wonderful season. One of the best parts of the month is the annual Johnny Appleseed Festival, which is always scheduled for the third full weekend of September. 

Here are the top ten things you don’t want to miss at the Johnny Appleseed Festival!

Johnny Appleseed Festival: Top 10 Things to Do

1. Savor the Food

The Johnny Appleseed Festival food is legendary. Individual organizations sponsor different booths and have foods that cater to a variety of appetites.

Annual staples include caramel popcorn, caramel apples, and chicken and dumplings. Some booths specialize in just one or two foods, like Portage Middle School with their turkey legs or the Kiwanis and their apple crisp. Other organizations offer a wider selection, like the Concordia High School JROTC’s root beer floats, fried onion straws, fried pickles, fried mushrooms, and more. If you’re thirsty, many booths sell sarsparilla root beer, lemonade, cider, tea, or water.

glass vases handpainted with flower patterns

2. Shop for Handmade Goods

Where do you start? Many of the items for sale at the Johnny Appleseed Festival are handmade or small-batch products whose makers are right there to talk with you. Old Fort Soaps and Clean Craft Soapworks have wonderfully scented bath products; Thom Pabst Creations features some amazing turned wood and varnished wood cutting boards, bowls and more. Linda’s Gallery of Crafts has silk flower arrangements and rustic calico decorations, and J and M Pottery has a variety of mugs from which to choose. From jewelry to hand-crafted metalware and clothing, you’ll find a lot of variety in the one-hundred-plus craft booths at the festival.

3. Listen to the Music

There are three different stages at the Johnny Appleseed Festival, where you can enjoy music, dancing, and more. Performers give a variety of musical styles, from violin kids to country/bluegrass strummers and singers.

You might also hear the rattle of drums and the singing of bagpipes winding through the festival grounds. These are members of the Fort Wayne Scottish Pipes and Drum Corp. In full kilts and kit, these musicians march through the better-paved trails of the Festival and are impossible to miss! 

Medicine Show at Johnny Appleseed

4. Hear from Storytellers

Storytelling is a unique art form, and places like the Johnny Appleseed Festival offer a performance venue not found in many other places. The River Stage and Folk Stage are where you’ll find Possum Molly and Reader the Magnificent retelling folk-themed tales that just might stretch a few details for fun.

5. Enjoy the Kids Activities

If you’ve got some littles with you, be sure to check out the pony rides from LPB Riding Stables. Down by the river (but not too close!) are more children’s activities, like a straw bale maze, ragball (like basketball, only with peach baskets and balls made of rag strips), and other games. There is a petting zoo (check the brochure for the specific location) and many of the games have neat prizes, like candy, when a kid completes a challenge!

6. Take in the History

Recognizing the past and the contributions of its people is a theme of the Johnny Appleseed Festival. You may see American Revolutionary War re-enactors, or representatives at the Civil War Encampment. (This is where the loud ‘booms’ of the cannon are coming from – the soldiers fire on the hour or more frequently, depending on their planned program.) Visitors are welcome to watch and chat with these historical enthusiasts, to ask questions about the past, their uniforms, or the foods they are cooking.

7. Attend a Service

As the Festival runs from Saturday to Sunday, there are church services on Sunday morning. John Chapman (aka Johnny Appleseed) followed the Swedenborg tradition of Christian worship, and a Swedenborg service will be held at the Festival Stage, Sunday from 10-10:30 a.m.

Abraham lincoln reenactor talks to an attendee at the johnny appleseed festival

8. Enjoy the Meet and Greets

You never know who you’ll run into at the Johnny Appleseed Festival. Historical re-enactors dressed as famous figures from history appear each year. The roster of characters changes from time to time, but people you may encounter include Abraham Lincoln, Johnny Appleseed himself, and famous military members from the American Civil War.

9. Go Antiquing

Close to the Festival Stage are the antique seller booths. You’ll find everything from small metal cookie cutters and vintage glassware to large pieces of furniture and quilts. Old suitcases of cloth handkerchiefs and pillowcases, bookshelves with old texts, and the random pair of ice skates or a Hudson’s Bay blanket may be found here.

10. Barter with Trappers and Traders

The Trappers and Traders are a unique part of the festival. Composed of sellers in furs and leather, these folks represent the old-time mountain men of the West, and their products for sale are just as unique. Come here to explore the past and chat with a history representative, or browse the items they have for sale. As with any seller, the products will vary from year to year, but this is the place where you can expect to find arrowhead necklaces, hand-forged metal, old-fashioned toys, and more. Can you barter with the trappers and traders? Why don’t you visit them and find out!

There is so much to do at the Johnny Appleseed Festival each year. As you plan your visit, learn more about the history that comes to life at the festival!