Gatherings focused on the family
Rifle has had its share of festivals. And as Rifle earned its place on the map, the early festivals originated from some of Rifles biggest industries: farming and ranching. According to the book Rifle Shots, Rifles first public festival was Watermelon Days, because watermelons and cantaloupe were in abundance in the area during the early 1900s.
Apple Pie Day followed, with the first event in either 1904 or 1909. Rifleites wanted to advertise their ever-growing apple orchards, so they created a festival to celebrate the fruit. It was quite a production. Ladies of Rifle were called upon to bake pies five each with apples provided from area farmers. More than 1,500 apples were baked into these pies. Long rows of tables and chairs were set up downtown, and everyone got to eat pie for free.In 1912, a group of Rifle citizens incorporated an Apple Pie Day Association, and Apple Pie Day held its first rodeo. The tradition continued for years. Renelda Batson remembered how much her big family enjoyed Apple Pie Days growing up.I was born and raised on a ranch 13 miles north of town, said Batson, and we always looked forward to Apple Pie Days. Everyone would bring the pies to my aunts house, which was on Second Street, before transferring them to the park for the free pie and ice cream.The weekends events were filled with family-friendly activities and childrens games, like sack races, ranch rodeos and concerts. Living out there on the ranch, Apple Pie Days was one of the only chances we got to socialize with other kids outside of school, Batson said. We loved going into the stores and seeing everyone dressed up in their Western wear. We enjoyed the free barbecue, the free pie and ice cream, she said.
Apple Pie Days was sort of a precursor to the Garfield County Fair. It was, and still is, a chance for all the countys residents to get together for rodeos, dances, and various 4-H and extension projects. Originally held over the Labor Day weekend during peak harvest time, the fair has been pushed back over the years, and now is usually held in the early part of August. When Mollie Reigan settled back in town in the 1940s, she remembers the fair as more of a communitywide event.Fair Days was really our big day here, Reigan said. When you went to the Fair Days or Apple Pie Days, you knew everybody you saw. Whenever anybody needed something, we were there for them. Now, you dont even know your next-door neighbor. Its a whole different ball game now. During the fair, Reigan and other members of the Ladies Auxiliary worked a hamburger stand under the fairgrounds grandstand, where they sold hamburgers for just 35 cents a pop.A whole lot of hamburger patties were made in this house, Reigan said with a chuckle. They also sliced tons of tomatoes and onions, homemade dill pickles and buns which they got from a bakery in downtown Rifle.
Though attendance has been dropping slightly at Rifle festivals in more recent times, there are those who still want to foster a strong community bond.In addition to the Garfield County Fair, the Rifle Rendezvous festival is held every May, along with the revival of Apple Pie Days in September and the Holly Days celebration in December.Batson and her daughter, Debbie Zemlock, are responsible for bringing Apple Pie Days back. When we started (to bring Apple Pie Days back) three years ago, the town wasnt busting like it is now, Batson said. We want to provide good, clean, family fun, where everyone could enjoy the events. We want to bring families together all of Rifle together as a family to really enjoy it.
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