The city of Nappanee has always had a soft spot when it comes to apples. With the historic Miller’s Apple Orchard being located at the heart of the city, residents have enjoyed the apple as a symbol of the town’s rich heritage with events such as the Apple Festival, which occurs annually in September.
Though the city has always paid homage to its favorite fruit, many businesses and individuals have taken their “apple appreciation” to the next level.
Late last week, 18 fully decorated apple shaped sculptures began emerging throughout the city. The idea began when Nappanee artist Jeff Stillson began considering the idea of creating an “art on parade” concept. The idea, according to Stillson, originated from his involvement in the Elkhart County Elk Art on Parade. After the success of the Elks, Stillson wanted to help bring a similar concept to his hometown.
“I’m an artist in Nappanee and I was involved in the Elks that went out throughout Elkhart County a few years ago. As a resident of Nappanee, I just thought this would be a neat thing to bring to Nappanee,” said Stillson.
Discussions began with the city of Nappanee and the Nappanee Chamber of Commerce in the fall of 2012 to see his concept to be brought to fruition. Stillson said both the city and the chamber were integral parts in delivering his dreams into reality.
According to Stillson, though the Elks project featured throughout Elkhart County were purchased by one buyer and were then auctioned off for charity, the approach for the apples in Nappanee had to come from a slightly different angle. Stillson, with the help of the city and chamber, contacted several businesses and individuals seeking possible sponsors who would be interested in purchasing a fiberglass apple to be painted, free of charge, and displayed around the city.
“After spawning the idea, I talked to the chamber of commerce and the city of Nappanee and we really couldn’t tackle it like we tackled the Elks – where they had been bought by one place and then auctioned off for charity.
“We kind of approached this with a different angle and that was just to look for sponsors immediately,” Stillson explained. “We put a call out and we had 18 people respond right away so there are 18 apples around the city. They are supported by individuals as well as businesses who own the apples and are simply allowing the city of Nappanee to display them.”
Stillson said the apples arrived ready to paint in January. From that point, it was up to the purchasers of the apple and their artist to determine how to decorate the sculpture.
The artists, who volunteered their work and time to the project free of charge, provided businesses with concept art for approval. Though many businesses took part in purchasing these apples according to Stillson, the main point is not to utilize the statues for advertising. Instead, Stillson said the sculptures are meant to serve as artwork for local residents and tourist to enjoy.
Though the elks throughout Elkhart County were moving pieces, Stillson said the apples will stay stationary while on display. The time frame for how long the sculptures will be available for public display is currently unknown, but Stillson noted the current time frame is set for approximately 1 to 2 years. Once residents of Nappanee have tired of the fruit shaped statues, Stillson said they will be returned to their respective owners.
With the success and public enjoyment of the first 18 sculptures, Stillson plans to open ordering of more sculptures back up to the public to allow other interested buyers opportunities to purchase, decorate and display their own apple. According to Stillson, all apples created will then be displayed at the 2013 Apple Festival in Nappanee in September.
Businesses and individuals interested in purchasing an apple may contact Jeff Stillson at 574-354-2477.