Lots of cider in Steilacoom for 40th annual Apple Squeeze

Alexis Krell

Staff writer

It was all about the apples Sunday in Steilacoom.

In pie, butter, fritters. Caramelized. 

And most important, cider.

Pressing the fruit was the heart of the 40th annual Apple Squeeze, which 8-year-old Angus Terpstra said is tough work.

"It may look easy, but it's pretty hard, actually," the Tacoman said Sunday as he worked to crush apples with a hand-operated press.

That wasn't going to keep 6-year-old sister Ainsley from taking her turn, though.

"I'm cranking that next!" she said.

Keith Sutherland built the press himself, one of somewhere between 17 and 24 presses that volunteers bring each year, organizers said.

He's been part of the festival for all 40 years, and said it's fun watching the kids learn to use the machine.

His most important advice: "Don't stick your hands in the hopper."

Sutherland remembers when kids used to bring wagons full of their own apples to press for cider. Health officials have put a stop to that, he said.

The festival now provides the fruit. Proceeds from the event, about $10,000 last year, support the Steilacoom Historical Museum Association.

"It all started with a bunch of guys who decided to have people who had historic apple trees in their backyard have a way to make cider," event chairwoman Marianne Bull said. "They set up in a park and had people over."

That sentiment is connected to the town's beginnings. Nathaniel Orr started many orchards in Steilacoom when it was developing as a pioneer town after he traveled the Oregon Trail, and his 1854 home was open for tours during the event.

Now the Apple Squeeze has about 50 artisan vendors who line Lafayette Street. Those booths have some historical roots, too: The goods are supposed to be made by hand instead of imported, and the vendors are encouraged to make their wares on site.

One vendor stitched at her booth, while another hammered on metal to make jewelry.

Sam Franks of Tacoma and his mom, Jan Jensen of Lakewood, perused the festival with their dog.

"I like the cider," Franks said.

"And the apple butter," Jensen added.

They weren't the only fans of that particular treat.

"They just sold out before we got here," Jensen said.