CORUNNA — Organizers are the first to admit that 2016’s Applefest event left a lot to be desired. The “apple theme” was restrictive, they said, and the carnival company they hired didn’t have the best ride selection.
Organizers hope a rebranding effort and a new carnival company will reinvigorate the event and bring more families to the city. The newly named “McCurdy Festival,” which is free to attend, is scheduled Thursday through Sunday at McCurdy Park.
“We got a lot of complaints last year and they were well-founded,” said event coordinator Joy Graham. “We heard what people had to say, we saw it ourselves and now we think we have a great event.”
McCurdy Festival will feature rides by Maple Leaf Amusements, which, according to Graham, is often the featured entertainment at larger cities like Jackson and Midland. Maple Leaf will offer rides at the event, now in its fourth year, it has never featured before, such as a giant slide. Tickets for rides are $1 each and rides cost about three to five tickets each.
The carnival times are Thursday and Friday from 5 to 11 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from noon to 11 p.m. There are free kids activities from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday.
“For them to come to our little town is a win in itself,” Graham said. “Honestly, last year, we didn’t have a good experience with the carnival company we hired. We wanted one that was larger, had better rides and a better reputation. And we’ve got it.”
An added bonus is that unlike last year’s entertainment, Maple Leaf is allowing organizers to schedule their own food vendors. That’s a great fit for McCurdy, Corunna Parks and Recreation Commissioner Bri Warfle said, because the park already hosts the popular Food Truck Throwdown event every week.
“We’re still lining up who exactly will be there, but we know we’ll have 15 different trucks,” she said. “It’s going to be a big hit, because you’ll be able to get any kind of food you want.”
A greater range of food offerings will also be felt in the sweets tent, which in the past has been home to a wide variety of apple-based baked goods. Some patrons in previous years walked away disappointed when told they could not buy, for example, a cherry pie, Graham said, but that’s over now.
“We’re still going to sell pies and breads and that sort of thing, and we’ll still make them right in the community center at the park,” Graham said. “Nobody has said they don’t like the food we sell, but the apple theme has held us back.”
Also, nonprofit support should increase. Previously, a single volunteer organization was enlisted to collect donations for on-site parking. This year, organizers have opened it up to a variety of different groups. Organizers are hoping to enlist high school marching bands to play during the event, allowing those who may not be able to go to band competitions or football games to see local musical talent.
“We’re trying a bunch of new things to see what sticks and going outside of our borders,” Graham said. “It’s fun.”
Some favorites will return: a car show is scheduled Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., with a pancake breakfast beforehand. A craft show will be running all weekend, and a euchre tournament is planned at 6 p.m. Thursday.
The new name is also familiar, Warfle said. Corunna is gearing up to celebrate its sesquicentennial in 2019, and organizers hope to do their part by honoring the park’s namesake, former Corunna Mayor Hugh McCurdy.
“It’s important to remind people that it’s a wonderful place to bring their family and friends, and it always has been,” Warfle said. “We want to bring lots of activities there all throughout the year to keep the park in peoples’ minds — it’s here for you to use.”