Old and young, community gathers once more at Old Apple Tree Festival

By Emily Gillespie, Columbian Breaking News Reporter

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Amid people using smartphones to take photos with the Northwest’s oldest apple tree, 87-year-old Willard Carroll clutched a leather photo album.

On a tattered black page of the treasured book, a black-and-white photo shows a younger, thinner version of the old apple tree, taken by his mother more than 90 years ago.

“She probably used an old box camera,” he said of the photo, dated 1923. “I wanted to show some of the rangers here, and I just wanted to visit where she was.”

Saturday was the first time Willard Carroll and his wife, Dalphyne, attended Vancouver’s Old Apple Tree Festival, which celebrates the tree that has withstood 188 years of wind, snow, ice and floods.

“Every time we drive by it, I think, how can it still be standing?” Dalphyne Carroll said. “It just amazes me. It’s a miracle.”

The couple, self-proclaimed history buffs, said it was nice to have a festival that celebrates the past.

And though the family-oriented activities are a big draw, the festival’s staple of giving away cuttings of the old tree had people lined up at 11 a.m., when the festival kicked off.

“We tend to get calls and emails a week prior,” said City Forester Charles Ray. “People can take a little bit of history home.”

Ray said the old tree is thinned to take some weight off the now-hollow trunk, which is held up by a rod running through the middle.

Though it needs help to stand, the tree is very much alive.

“It puts off vigorous growth every year,” Ray said.

Crowds of people filled Old Apple Tree Park for the event, which featured bluegrass music, arts and crafts, informational booths and a popular apple cider press.

Andi Elliott and her 9-year-old daughter Emma drove down from Kelso for the day to attend the festival.

The two carted in a box of apples, loaded them into the grinder and then cranked and pressed the apple bits into cider.

“Look at all that juice, Em,” Andi said.

“I told you apples were juicy,” Emma replied.

As the juice poured into a bucket, the two high-fived.

Poured into a milk jug, the brown sweet liquid nearly filled the entire two liters.

“It’s fun that she gets to learn something,” Andi Elliott said. “It’s good to show Emma that apple juice doesn’t just come from a store.”

After the hard work, Emma Elliott got to try the cider that she helped make.

Not removing the small paper cup from her lips, she smiled as she gave a thumbs-up of approval.