After more than a quarter century in charge, Darel and LaVerna Leipold are stepping away from the Excelsior community festival they started.
Back in 1985, the couple, who own Leipolds of Excelsior, moved an existing celebration they started from August to September and renamed it Apple Days. It became Apple Day after that first year and has been a community landmark ever since.
"We thought it would be a good time to retire from it and let someone else manage it," Darel Leipold said.
"We get the appreciation from people who are local, or who are not so local who say they always make it a point to make it each year," LaVerna Leipold said. "There's the whole atmosphere. It is a home-town celebration."
Running the festival year after year certainly took a lot of time. The couple would book the out-of-town vendors, arrange the prizes for the button raffle, work to bring in entertainment, and, in recent years, write the clues for the annual "Golden Apple" contest.
"It took a considerable amount of time, but we did it because we enjoyed it. The town seemed to appreciate it. It was a great civic event and we had so much fun doing it," Darel Leipold said.
Excelsior had an apple-themed festival in the 1930s, but the idea was fallow for decades, until 1985. The Leipolds always tried to bring in apple-related businesses for the event, even though it was a bit before the fruit's fall harvest. There were plenty of other vendors, many of whom brought apple-related merchandise, Darel Leipold said.
All of the planning paid off when the Saturday arrived for the event. Over the first 28 years, none of the events have been completely rained out.
"At one event, it was raining in the morning. They set up and covered their tables with plastic. I told everyone the rain was going to quit at noon. At noon, the rain quit and the sun came out and suddenly the town was full of people. It stuck with me that the people would be patient enough on a rainy day to wait and be a part of Apple Day," Darel Leipold said.
Then there was the year that no one was able to guess the "Golden Apple" location.
"The $200 was donated to the local garden club," Darel Leipold said.
For the Leipolds, it was more than a one-day business promotion for Excelsior's downtown.
"We looked at it as an appreciation day for the people who come to Excelsior," Darel Leipold said.
For the businesses on Water Street and elsewhere in Excelsior, the business on Apple Day can be hit and miss. However, "almost everybody appreciates Apple Day. It shows off the town and the people will come back again later," LaVerna Leipold said.
So what's next for the couple? Well, they will be able to devote more time to the business they've had in Excelsior's downtown for nearly 42 years.
"We can be involved in different Chamber activities. Before, it was all Apple Day. This year, we were on the person of the year committee," Darel Leipold said.
"It's our 42nd year in business and I have finally decided to stay." Darel Leipold said. "We will continue to be part of the town and a part of the main street."
The Excelsior-Lake Minnetonka Chamber will take over Apple Day's operations.