It finally happened.
The annual Apple Festival came to Bayfield, Wisconsin, and with it came thousands of people from across the land. Normally, Bayfield has a population of roughly 600 people, one grocery store, one gas station, and a couple blocks of shops aimed largely towards selling recreational items to tourists during the summer. But for three days out of the year, the small town of Bayfield turns into a tiny metropolis.
The picture I have on the right doesn’t do the crowd justice. I had to go to the very corner of the festival to get the room to take this picture, and unfortunately I was down the hill instead of on the top of it. During the times I was able to explore the festival I would occasionally get claustrophobia from the traffic. It was a complete zoo.
But, where does the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore fit into all of this?
Due to the park’s influence on the surrounding area, the Apostle Islands are annually invited to set up a booth and participate in the Apple Fest parade. So that’s exactly what we did this year.
Going along with the theme of the centennial, we worked on constructing a float resembling the Michigan Island Lighthouse. This specific lighthouse was a point of emphasis for the interpretive staff during 2016 and the island’s apple orchard history fits nicely within the narrative of Apple Fest. The float was a spectacular achievement. One of the park’s maintenance workers, Wyatt Judziewicz, constructed the lighthouse after hours, entirely off of memory! I was tasked with painting the lighthouse, which took several days, the detail work in particular. It was a source of pride for the park staff this year. In the past, the park would simply attach a boat to a trailer, put a couple of banners on it and call it good. But, during the year of the centennial, you gotta go all out.
The Apostle Islands National Lakeshore booth contained a variety of information about the National Park Service, it mission and values. Through the span just three days we made over 2000 contacts. Not bad for a booth without food.
Our main attraction was the Find Your Park pin map displayed above (right). People were instantly drawn to this board, mulling over the map, deciphering what the pins were for. We encouraged visitors to pin their favorite national park, and the amount of parks that people have visited was stunning. Clearly, many people at Apple Fest had preference towards local parks (I placed a pin in the Apostle Islands, no bias there), but the area around the Grand Canyon had a high pin density. More so than any other area. The park with the most pins, however, was Yellowstone, followed by Zion, and then Glacier National Park. I would say that St. Croix Riverway had the most pins, but it is likely that some people were simply pinning where they lived (had to remove pins from Madison frequently).
I also had the pleasure of working alongside the Friends of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. They make up the bulk of our volunteers and dedicate their time and energy towards assisting the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore with their vision. It was the friends group that brought the Find Your Park pin map and pulled in a majority of our visitors.
It was a great success. During the parade we strutted down the street handing out Apostle Islands trading cards to anyone willing to grab one. At several stops along the way park employees pulled out kazoos and hummed Happy Birthday while getting the crowd to sing along. We had fun with it, and because of that, the people had fun too. We spread information about the Apostle Islands, interacted with a wide variety of people, and put our park pride on full display. It was the pinnacle of a lot hard work, and it paid off in full.