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Puyallup families squeeze fall fun out of annual cider event

Elizabeth Custodio, right, and her children, Timothy, 9, and Taylor Babbel, 12, fill a jug with cider at the Meeker Mansion Cider Squeeze in Puyallup Saturday.
Elizabeth Custodio, right, and her children, Timothy, 9, and Taylor Babbel, 12, fill a jug with cider at the Meeker Mansion Cider Squeeze in Puyallup Saturday. Staff photographer

Four-year-old Lily Crowell didn’t have time to stop and chit-chat Saturday.

The cider wasn’t going to make itself.

“She’s had a great time,” grandmother Debbie Owens said as she snapped photographs of Lily turning the crank on a manual cider press. “Her attention span has been very short.”

Lily had already danced to folk music and picked out pumpkins at the 24th annual cider squeeze at the Meeker Mansion in Puyallup.

Owens said Saturday was the family’s first time at the community event.

She said it’s neat that kids could gain appreciation for how products are made.

“You don’t just go to the store,” Owens said.

Many attendees agreed that the cider squeeze is quintessential Puyallup.

Families hand-picked their apples from about a dozen giant crates, washed them in buckets of water and took turns throwing them into one of 17 cider presses scattered around the Meeker Mansion lawn.

Volunteers expected to run out of 12,000 pounds of apples by 3 p.m. Saturday

The machines were a mix of electric and manual, including one that dates to 1890, said event coordinator Lynn Daugherty.

Daugherty ran all over the grounds Saturday, toting grocery bags of apples and helping more than 20 volunteers at food booths and rinsing stations.

She said nothing keeps big crowds from enjoying the tradition. Workers travel from as far as Bothell to help out, she added.

“They even come in the rain,” Daugherty said. “We have people who have come all 24 years.”

Ruth Nelson is one of them.

The Tacoma resident who spent most of her life in Puyallup said she wouldn’t miss the cider squeeze.

“You see lots of friends,” she said with a wide smile.

Nelson was headed home with an impressive haul, including pumpkins and apples to make homemade applesauce.

No cider for her household this year, though.

“Demand has lessened over the years,” Nelson quipped. “So now I take home apple pie.”

Janet Kanter traveled from Camino, California, to volunteer at the event. She is the great-great-granddaughter of Puyallup’s founding father, Ezra Meeker.

Since the 1960s, she’s been visiting the historic mansion that honors the city’s roots.

Saturday’s Meeker Mansion event was one of many that Kanter has participated in over the years. She said it helps kids appreciate where food comes from.

“I don’t know how they couldn’t,” she said.

Daugherty, the event coordinator, said she expected to run out of apples by 3 p.m. Saturday, despite starting with about 12,000 pounds.

“That’s why we tell everyone to get here early,” she said.

Kari Plog: 253-597-8682

kari.plog@thenewstribune.com

@KariPlog

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