WASHOUGAL — Nine-year-old Ryan Tyler placed his ammunition, an apple, into a funnel and began walking backward.
The funnel, part of a giant slingshot, was attached to two posts with long, springy cords. As the Camas boy pulled the funnel back a couple of dozen feet, Jonathan Natuik of Washougal gave him some advice.
“Come on back. Back, back, back, back,” Natiuk said. “Now, aim it. Really aim it up.”
After stretching the sling back as far as he could, the boy sat on the ground, leaned back and let go. The funnel shot forward, and the apple fired deep into the woods.
“It curved!” the boy said. “That was awesome. It went so fast.”
The apple slingshot was one of many attractions at Riverside Christian School’s 25th annual Apple Festival on Sunday. The slingshot was so popular that organizers ran out of apples by about 1 p.m. and resorted to hiking into the woods to reuse apples that had already been slung.
Six-year-old Lily Earl of Vancouver made two attempts with the slingshot. “It was fun, but the first time it almost fell out,” Lily said of her apple. On her second attempt, “it went way up into that evergreen tree.”
On Sunday’s sunny afternoon, about a couple hundred people were at the festival, many of them trying out pony rides, cake walks, eating contests, a bounce house, face painting — and, of course, apple pie and apple dumplings.
About 20 waited in line inside one of the school’s buildings, which was filled with the aroma of fresh apple pie, and most appeared to order their pie with a generous scoop of ice cream. Customers also had the option of buying frozen pies or dumplings to take home.
By Sunday afternoon, about 1,500 apple dumplings and 350 pies had been sold or eaten, said Cheri Bradford, one of the bakers.
“Hi folks, we’re getting down to the nitty-gritty on the dumplings,” she told customers, warning them that there weren’t many left.
Shannon Grady and her two children — 5-year-old Finley Grady and 12-year-old Dillon Grady — sat at a nearby table to take a break from all of the activity. A butterfly wing had been painted on each side of Finley’s face, she had her own balloon animal, and she had just taken a ride on one of the horses.
“She got to ride Blackberry. He was really sweet,” the girl’s mother said.
The family moved from Portland to Camas in August and have been exploring the area by attending community events. Earlier in the day, they went to a pumpkin patch.
“We absolutely love it,” Shannon Grady said of their new hometown. “It’s been so welcoming.”
Dillon recommended that the Apple Festival “should be multiple times a year. It’s just so much fun.”
The excitement ramped up at about 2 p.m., when seven children sat around a table for a pie-eating contest. The rules were simple. The first one to finish their pie won, and contestants couldn’t use their hands. By the end, their faces were covered with chocolate pudding and whipped cream, but most of their clothing had been spared by the garbage bags they’d worn during the event.
Connor Natiuk, 13, took first place, winning an electric toothbrush. The two contestants who tied for second place each got even more sweets: a brownie.
“My mom told me to suck it all up, and it worked,” Connor said of his pie-eating strategy.
An even livelier pie-eating contest between adults followed.
The Apple Festival is Riverside Christian School’s primary fundraiser, and the money raised through the event helps pay for school programs and scholarships, said Julie Natiuk, a spokeswoman for the school. The school serves kindergarten through eighth-grade students and is affiliated with the Riverside Seventh-day Adventist Church.