Yankey saying goodbye to Casey County apple pie, hello to Anderson County burgoo

September 26, 2003|BRENDA S. EDWARDS

LIBERTY - Tommy Yankey measured and judged his last apple peeling contest Thursday night, the first full-day of the week-long Casey County Apple Festival that runs through Saturday.

Yankey, county agricultural agent for the past 14 years, will leave Tuesday to take become the ag agent in Anderson County.

"I observed the first year and have been working with the festival for 13 years," Yankey said.

Next year, he may make burgoo at the Anderson County Burgoo Festival.

"I have no clue on how to make burgoo," he said. "They said I'd learn."

Thursday night, Yankey ran from the ancient apple peeler to the slicer, to the apple peeling contest and helped get a giant pizza in the oven.

"We spend a lot of time working on the peeler," Yankey said as it slowed down to a stop.

The two apple peelers used to peel the 45 bushels of apples were 60 years old when the festival committee purchased them in Indiana, said George Wolford, festival chairman.


"They had been retired when we got them," he said.

The peelers have been used about 25 of the 29 years the festival has been held.

"Apples were hand-peeled the first four or five years," he said.

The peelers also have been used in Indiana and Louisiana festivals. "We traveled to Rustin, La., and did a giant pizza for Louisiana State University one year," Wolford said. "It was quite an experience."

Charlie Orr, regional manager of Pizza Hut, and employees of the local restaurant, prepared this year's pizza with 90 pounds of cheese, 10 gallons of tomato sauce, 40 pounds of sausage, 25 pounds of pepperoni and 25 pounds of dough.

"It's a tradition," said Orr, who has helped with the pizza for 20 years. "We call all the gang in. We have a big time doing it."

The pizza is served free to festival goers.

Most of the people working with the apple preparation have been at the job since the first festival.

"We need to recruit some young ones," said Yankey. The apple peelers, sporting green T-shirts with an apple, large pie carrying an American flag, and "Salutes Our Veterans" logo, come out early, but only a few stay late, Yankey said.

"We don't have any problem getting people to peel early, but the later you go, the thinner the crowd gets," he said. "By the time we are ready to clean up, the crowd is pretty thin. It's not as glamorous."

Bonnie Smithers, a former Casey resident of Franklin, Ind., helps each year.

She recruited her young granddaughter, Cindy Smithers of Indiana, this year. Cindy chose to help her grandmother with the apples rather than go to school today.

People in the assembly line gathered around the work area to wash the apples, which are hand placed on the peeler, checked for spots, then sliced. Lemon juice is used to keep the apples from turning brown. Apples are placed in plastic bags until the pie is made.

This year's pie was made with 45 bushels of fresh California Granny apples. Yankey expected to be finished by 10:30 p.m. Thursday, then up again early this morning for the pie preparation.

The apples, 300 pounds of pastry, 150 pounds of sugar, 15 pounds of butter, 2 1/2 pounds of cinnamon, 1 1/2 half pound of salt and 75 pounds of corn starch were placed in the large pan this morning.

The pie will bake 12 hours before it is served at noon Saturday.

While the apples were being peeled Thursday night, Yankey worked with the apple peeling contest.

About 10 competitors tried their hand at peeling an apple without breaking the peel. Many of them practiced before the contest began.

"I've got them in every corner," said Yankey.

Some held apples on tables to keep the peel from breaking, while others held them in their hand and kept the peel close to the apple until the task was finished.

Yankey is sad to leave Casey County where he had been active in the farm community but is looking forward to his new position and living closer to his mother.

"I'm really going to miss this," Yankey said about his work with the festival.

Brenda S. Edwards can be reached at

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