Johnny Appleseed Festival: McHenry County Fall at Its Finest

Crystal Lake

There’s nothing like the feel of crunching leaves beneath your boots as you breathe in the scent of freshly baked pie (which could be yours if entered into the pie-baking or pie-eating contest), and the sound of your child’s laughter as he or she pets a goat or sheep for the first time, rides the pumpkin train, or gets his or her very first strike in pumpkin bowling.

This is the Johnny Appleseed Festival.

Photo Credit: Downtown Crystal Lake / Main Street on Facebook

Crystal Lake’s largest one-day event – the Johnny Appleseed Festival – is a day which brings families together to celebrate and kick-off of the Fall season, and is my personal favorite in the county. It brings that Mainstreet U.S.A. feeling to life as you stroll through the historic downtown, run into friends and neighbors, and take part in this community-cherished event. Aside from celebrating the legend of Johnny Appleseed itself and having the opportunity to meet the old man personally as he wanders around town, live music, a craft fair with beautiful local handmade crafts, a farmer’s market and a full day of demonstrations and entertainment will keep your family engaged.

Johnny Appleseed was born as John Chapman in 1774 and is known as a kind and generous American pioneer nurseryman. He introduced apple trees to large parts of several states by planting nurseries and spreading apple seeds wherever he went, including throughout Illinois. We very well may not enjoy the apple pies we do today if it weren’t for this man! Whew.

Image courtesy of Shelby Younge


Although fall is the predominant theme, several activities will entertain your nearest and dearest. See a demonstration of how an antique apple cider press and peeler works or get a balloon art creation from a not-too-creepy clown. For some quiet time, sit and enjoy storytelling in front of the Raue. You can also delight in the way the local businesses get into the seasonal spirit with the scarecrow-decorating contest, where dozens of scarecrows bedeck downtown Crystal Lake and win a variety of prizes, such as “Scariest Scarecrow,” “Funniest Scarecrow,” and “Most Creative Scarecrow” to name a few.

Image courtesy of Shelby Younge

Several local groups perform throughout the day; at no extra cost, you can watch dance, martial arts, gymnastics, and musical presentations, likely with a classmate or neighbor taking center stage.

Activities are plentiful with fall-themed children’s games and activities. Tickets are $1 each, and the number of tickets required varies per ride. Pony rides and the pumpkin bounce house tend to be the most popular and can present a wait, but there are plenty of games with short lines to give immediate gratification to excited kids. Click here for a detailed list of ticketed activities and the number of tickets required.

Make sure you stay for lunch and check out the food booths near the train depot, where you can taste your way through several Crystal Lake restaurants, or just snack on apple cider donuts while listening to live music. Nobody will count how many you eat, I promise.

Image courtesy of Shelby Younge

The day culminates in the exciting Great Ball Race and Raffle, where brightly colored plastic balls are numbered to correspond with raffle tickets that can be purchased that day. The balls are released and rolled down Brink Street, and the fastest balls win gifts and prizes from local participating businesses. The $1,000 grand prize winner is ALWAYS thrilled that they bought that ticket.

If all this wasn’t enough to convince you to check out the festival, maybe the fact that Crystal Lake’s is actually one of the four Johnny Appleseed Festivals outlined in Wikipedia will?

This year, become a part of the folkloric tradition, and celebrate the charm of autumn with your family at the Johnny Appleseed Festival!

johnny appleseed festival crystal lake
Image courtesy of Crystal Lake, Illinois Facebook page

Johnny Appleseed Festival
Saturday, September 29, 2018  9:00am – 4:00pm. Downtown Crystal Lake.

For more information, please visit the Downtown Crystal Lake website.

Have you been to the festival? Tells us your favorite part!

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