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Thursday, May 25, 2017 12:17 am

Amaranth Apple Festival

Food and music festival celebrates the eternal beauty of Springfield

Matthew Sweet performs at the Amaranth Apple Festival July 14-15.


Although the name “Amaranth Apple Festival” (Downtown Springfield Inc.’s revision of 2016’s Bacon Throwdown) may sound like a celebration of the late summer and early autumn deciduous fruit, the midsummer festival, occurring July 14-15, actually celebrates Springfield’s signature restaurant dishes paired with live music, courtesy of the Bedrock 66 Live! Concert Series. The name of the festival pays homage to Springfield’s most famous poet, Vachel Lindsay, who wrote of the mystical fruit called the “Amaranth Apple” in his 1920 novel titled The Golden Book of Springfield.

In Lindsay’s novel, the Amaranth Apple grew after Johnny Appleseed planted seeds in the deceased body of Hunter Kelly, the fictional founder of Springfield. The seeds then blossomed, converting Springfield into a utopian paradise comprised of socially and religiously awakened citizens, serving as a model for all of America. The name “Amaranth Apple Festival” came into being when, according to DSI’s Executive Director Lisa Clemmons Stott, a DSI committee member likened downtown Springfield to the blossoming of Lindsay’s Amaranth Apple. DSI’s committee felt it was a fitting name for a food festival designed to celebrate the “weird and wonderful” in the heart of Springfield, and the name took off from there.

Although there will be a “hint” of the mystical food in each bite, participating restaurants will be showcasing their own signature dishes, marking a return to the “Taste of Downtown” street festival format. On July 14-15, organizers are expecting at least 25 participating restaurants to line Fifth and Washington streets just west of the Old State Capitol. Expect to find sample-sized portions of your favorite local chef’s creations as well as exciting new dishes to tantalize your tastebuds.

The music component of the festival features a talented mix of local and regional acts. The tunes begin Friday evening at 6 p.m. with singer-songwriters Josh Reilly and Amy Benton. Friday’s musical lineup features two co-headliners: Rockford’s Miles Nielsen and The Rusted Hearts along with The Whistles and the Bells, who are based out of Nashville, Tennessee. Miles Nielsen and The Rusted Hearts have been likened to early Wilco and the Raspberries while The Whistles and The Bells, the solo project from Cadillac Sky frontman Bryan Simpson, seamlessly blends Southern folk, alt-country and indie gospel.

Music on Saturday begins at 3 p.m. with Bruiser Queen, the St. Louis-based garage-pop rock n’ roll duet voted “Best Rock Group” in the 2015 and 2016 Riverfront Times’ “Best of St. Louis” readers poll. They’ll be followed by sets from Springfield pop-punkers The Starter Jackets, former Motor City rockers Captain Ivory, and Chicago’s The Handcuffs. Saturday night’s headliners are American singer-songwriter Matthew Sweet, whose 1991 album titled Girlfriend is recognized as one of the most critically acclaimed albums of the 90s, and The Cold Stares, returning to Springfield for the second time this year, from Nashville.

Admission to the Amaranth Apple Festival costs $5 per day. Food and drink tickets will be available for purchase in advance online at a discounted rate, or on site at the festival. For more information about DSI’s Amaranth Apple Festival, call 544-1723 or visit http://downtownspringfield.org. – Nan Kording

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