Fort Riley’s Fall Apple Day went on as a largely virtual event Saturday due to the continued presence of COVID-19 in the community.
The event was much changed from last year, but pies made using Libbie Custer’s famous secret apple pie recipe still made an appearance. About 500 pies were made this year — far fewer than usual — and sold by the slice with or without ice cream or whole, frozen and unbaked.
2020 Pie Queens Katina Jackson and Kristin Jopling were present to take part in the event. Every year, the pie queens — who are the only ones entrusted with the secret recipe — help make and sell the pies, the sales of which benefit The Historical and Archeological Society of Fort Riley (HASFR).
“We’re having the time of our lives,” Jopling said. “We’ve worked hard through this last week and now we're just trying to have fun and get to know our community and be all smiles and sell apple pies today.”
Jackson said it felt good to see people support them, despite limitations put on the event by COVID-19.
“It just feels good to be part of a years-long tradition,” Jackson said.
Jopling believed the Fort Riley community would do what they could to help them celebrate, in however muted a fashion. Jackson agreed, saying that even if there were fewer participants this year, she believed those who took part would still have a good time.
HASFR Vice President Kim Burke said everyone was sad to not be able to have the traditional, in-person Apple Day.
“Ee're all pretty disappointed we couldn't have the full Apple Day experience,” she said. "But I really think the post came together really well to come up with an alternative to it, so you can still see what Apple Day is all about, and get a historic feel for what Fort Riley has to offer — and we still got to do pies too.”
Burke said she looked forward to performances by the Commanding General’s Mounted Color Guard and to people enjoying the pies. She hoped all the pies sold.
“A lot of the volunteers work really hard this week, so it would be nice to see them (sell),” she said.
Garrison Commander Col. William McKannay also made an appearance at Apple Day, which was his first time at the event.
"I'm really honored to be here and everything,” he said. "Everybody works so hard to do it a little bit different this year. But we didn't want to not do it, of course.”
McKannay said he looked forward to what the day had in store.
It was hard, he said, to turn the traditional festival into a virtual event from the traditional, in-person format, but he felt his people had pulled it off.
“We know it's really important to our partnership with the community,” McKannay said. "And we'd like to show for Riley off to everybody —t and the wonderful soldiers that we have here — but this year, we had to do it a little bit differently. We wanted to keep everybody safe soldiers and civilians and our partners in the community alike, but still have a Fall Apple Day festival. So I'm really proud of my team. They went above and beyond and really put together something that is unprecedented, but also allowed us to do some things that we couldn't do in a normal Fall Apple Day.”
This included some pre-recorded performances and messages from deployed units to go along with the live events, all of which can be found on the 1st Infantry Division’s Facebook. McKannay said he was pleased that people around the world who wanted to take part in the festivities, including former Fort Riley soldiers and their families, now could.
The 1st Infantry Division Band provided music as usual during the celebration.
Sgt. 1st Class Jennifer Champagne, a vocalist with the band, said she was happy to be there.
“Today we get the chance to perform the music that we love doing,” she said. "It's our job, right? And so we're getting to give just a little bit of that back to the community today on this virtual event.”
Champagne said she was glad the band could still reach out to members of the community, even though it was at a distance.
She said the virtual event would not be much different for her than usual.
"For me, it's really no different,” Champagne said. "It's obviously nice to have an audience whenever we're performing. But we play every day. So just the chance to play and share music is great.”
Bandmate Andrei Osipov, who plays the guitar, said the event would be different for him because he’d have to perform while wearing a mask, which felt weird to him. He has been with the band since 2014 and has performed many shows, including past Fall Apple Days.
"I'm just happy to be here,” Osipov said.
He said he hoped people enjoyed the livestream. He regretted not being able to perform live for a crowd as he had in the past, but was glad to be able to perform at all.
“This is just what we have to do with the circumstances that we have right now,” Osipov said. "But hey, at least we're doing it, so that's great.”
See www.facebook.com/FortRiley/posts/10158730665936306 to check out the livestream of the celebration.