Kansas crafts and cider celebrated

For 31 years, the Cider Days Festival has been a growing tradition in Topeka. Featuring arts and crafts from around the country, some might say it has become the leading festival in Northeast Kansas, and with good reason.

This two-day event, held at the Kansas Expocentre, not only showcases the wares of many crafters, but also features various reenactments, traditional musical entertainment and an exotic animal petting zoo. Chele Kuhn and Keith Liesmann, co-owners of the festival since 2006, are excited to host the petting zoo for the second year in a row.

“They bring in camels and ostriches…I don’t even know the names of some of the animals,” said Kuhn. “It’s really great.”

Admission to the petting zoo is free with each $7 ticket bought in advance, or $8 at the door, making it a great deal for kids and adults alike.

Another tradition that can be found at this year’s festival is Connie Kimball’s cider press. The press, the namesake of the Cider Days Festival, is nearly 150 years old. Kimball has produced batches of fresh apple cider and apple butter with the press since the festival’s inception. Kuhn looks forward to the cider every year.

“Before we took over the festival, I’d never had fresh apple cider,” said Kuhn. “It’s totally different than cider from the store. Plus, Connie’s the neatest lady.”

Both the quality and quantity of the vendors that participate each year attract Kansans from miles away. Even though Cider Days takes place on Sept. 22 and 23, Kuhn says it is a great time to start Christmas shopping. Whether shopping far in advance or for the near future, every customer can find what he or she is looking for at Cider Days.

The enthusiastic co-owners credit much of their success to the quality and generosity of the vendors and sponsors that participate every year.

“I think we do a great job marketing the festival, but we have great sponsors who help out a bunch,” said Kuhn. “Kansas First News, Country Legends and LearningQuest are all really great.”

In addition to providing the public with entertainment of all sorts, the festival has become a social event that brings people from around the country together once a year. Kuhn and Liesmann both look forward to seeing some of the same faces every year.

“Seeing the craft vendors again is great,” said Kuhn. “You become friends and you can catch up at the festival. It’s become a tradition for a lot of people.”

Liesmann especially enjoys the diversity of the participants.

“There are people who come in from all over the United States,” said Liesmann. “You get a lot of people from a lot of different areas. The festival has not only become an important part of the Kansas community, but has formed a community of its own.”

With endless entertainment, a rich history and even richer cider, this years festival should provide great entertainment for Topekans and visitors alike.

Tickets can be purchased at any Walgreen’s or HyVee location in Topeka. The festival lasts from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sept. 22 and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sept. 23.