The Johnny Appleseed Festival is not exactly a magnet for controversy.
Pretty much the only thing people have disagreed about over the years is precisely where Johnny Appleseed, aka John Chapman, is buried. But 2012 is unique.
The 38th annual Johnny Appleseed Festival happens Saturday and Sunday in Johnny Appleseed and Archer parks.
This month, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals requested that the festival go meatless in honor of Chapman’s supposed vegetarianism.
As it says on Page 308 of Newell Dwight Hillis’ 1904 historical novel, “The Quest for John Chapman: The Story of a Forgotten Hero,” “During all his later years, (Chapman) was a vegetarian. He could not bear to kill any living thing.”
Festival organizers rejected PETA’s demand, although they did promise to ask vendors to consider offering meatless options next year.
Judging from the response of some festival fans, trying to ban meat from the Johnny Appleseed Festival is about as popular as trying to ban snow from a winter carnival.
Bridget Kelly, executive board member and food booth chair, said a local TV station conducted a survey about the brouhaha and only 2 percent of respondents agreed with PETA that the festival should go vegan.
Presuming that a sizeable majority of regular attendees would come down on the side of meat (many of them while daydreaming about a side of beef), there really isn’t much of a downside to this PETA challenge for the festival.
Kelly says the publicity has been great.
“It’s got people talking about it,” she says. “More so than usual. It’s more in our favor than in theirs, so I’m not sure how productive it will be for them.”
Kelly says there will be two new vendors at the festival this year, neither of which specializes in meat.
Habitat for Humanity will host a sweet tea booth, Kelly says.
Sweet iced tea is a Southern delicacy that results from adding sugar to hot, tea-steeping water instead of adding it to cold tea.
Kelly says a vendor called Dolly’s Cookie Basket from somewhere in Michigan will also be in attendance (there is a listing for a Doll’s Cookie Basket in Grand Ledge, Mich., but that may be unconnected).
Once you get your hands on one of this cookie purveyor’s many confections, it will hardly matter to you if it’s called Doll’s or Dolly’s.
New to the entertainment portion of the festival this year is a tent, according to the festival’s director of entertainment Kathryn Lemish.
The tent’s not the draw. It’s who’s inside that counts.
Longtime Abraham Lincoln impersonator Fritz Klein will have a base of operations inside the tent, rather than stroll the festival grounds as he has in years past, Lemish says.
It will be located across from the information booth, she says.
This way, people will know where to find him if they want an autograph or to ask him a pertinent question related to Lincoln’s presidency such as, “Are vampires allergic to garlic or is that just a myth?”
Yes, thanks to the movie adaptation of Seth Grahame-Smith’s “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter,” Klein probably has to field a few questions like that these days, Lemish says.
“I am sure he has answered questions about that before and will this weekend,” she says.
Over on the “Medicine Man stage,” singer-songwriter Chris Vallillo will once again be paired with Dan Barth’s Old-Time Medicine show, Lemish says, so that there are no lulls in the action.
Barth and Vallillo “play off each other well,” she says.
“It’s a great partnership,” she says.
Lemish says a fifth stage of entertainment has been added to the festival.
Highlights among the many performers include northern Californian duo Suzanne & Jim and musical comedy team the McKinney Washtub Two, she says.
Lemish says an educational postscript has been added this year to the Swedenborgian church service, so that people may better understand this Christian movement of which Chapman was a devotee.