CHARLESTON -- Apple grower Aaron Hacker enjoys sharing information about his favorite fruit, and he had no shortage of audience members at the Five Mile House Fall Festival on Sunday.
A steady stream of visitors filed by Hacker’s booth and many, including several children, stopped to help him use an old-fashioned cider press. They dumped apples into the top and turned the wheel that made the device pulverize the fruit.
Hacker, of Westfield, said Sunday’s turnout was among the best he has seen for the festivals, adding that the sunshine and warm weather helped. He told his audience about how fermented cider was an essential for settlers in a time when pure drinking water was not always available.
“Hard cider was safer than water because it came out of apples and they did not have to worry about it being contaminated,” Hacker said, adding that the hard cider could be stored for a long time.
The cider press was one of several booths that ringed the back lawn of the historic Five Mile House. The house is thought to have been built sometime in the late 1830s or mid-1840s, making it one of the oldest existing structures in Coles County.
Visitors watched mid-19th century-style performances by magician “Amazing Andrew” and head bump-reading phrehologist “Phineas Fairhead, and trade demonstrations by blacksmith Lorelei Sims, among others.
Myra Kubicek of Ashmore and her 12-year-old daughter, Lisa, brought two Nubian goats and a part Netherland dwarf rabbit to display at a farm animal petting zoo under the shade of an apple tree.
Kubicek said many of their visitors were surprised by the large size of the two goats -- 175-pound Fred and 125-pound Faye.
“The kids especially are interested in seeing them. A lot of times kids don’t get to see farm animals very often,” Kubicek said.
The Five Mile House Foundation received a helping hand from volunteers with the Eastern Illinois University women’s basketball team during the busy festival.
Team members Shakita Cox and Alece Shumpert, both seniors, helped children make corn husk dolls and clay marbles. Cox said mixing up the clay and molding it into marbles was a bit messy, but she she enjoyed both crafts.
Both Cox and Shumpert said they enjoyed seeing how the children put their individual touches on the dolls with various combinations of corn husk clothing and hair.
“Their personalities definitely made it fun. Each child had his or her own personality and wanted to make their dolls or marbles the way they wanted,” Shumpert said.
Foundation Board member Tom Vance said the basketball team volunteers “jumped in and helped out” during one of the most well attended fall festivals. Vance said the foundation opened parking behind the rental house next door and filled these spots. Other visitors parked along adjacent Westfield Road.
Vance attributed to big turnout to nice weather and increasing community awareness about the programming at the restored Five Mile House.