One of Southwest Missouri's oldest autumn and largest festivals has joined the ranks of events cancelled over COVID-19 concerns. The Mount Vernon Area Chamber of Commerce announced earlier this week that the annual Apple Butter Makin' Days, originally planned for October 11-13, has been cancelled. In a statement on social media, the organization said, "For the protection of our schools, nursing homes and general public health, we are cancelling Apple Butter Makin' Days 2020. We will begin planning soon for the 2021 festival. We look forward to our big event every year and have never cancelled in 53 shows, so a few tears have been shed but the decision has been made."

Apple Butter Makin' Days, featuring the on site preparation of apple butter, began in October 1967 and has been held each year since. In addition to the cooking of apple butter on the Mount Vernon Square, the event also usually has around 500 booths, games and entertainment for all ages, and a parade. The event often brings approximately 90,000 visitors to Mount Vernon.

The history behind the annual festival goes back to the early pioneer period in Southwest Missouri.

In large copper kettles, most of which are more than a century old, the old-fashioned process of making apple butter normally began during the festival before dawn each day. The first step is to place previously peeled apples into the kettles with water. Then the twelve hour cooking process over open fires involves frequent stirring with long, wooden paddles to prevent sticking or burning. Toward the end of the cooking time, sugar and spices are added. By the middle of the afternoon, the apple butter is poured into jars, which are sealed.

Apple butter - which despite the name contains no butter - dates back to the Middle Ages when it was first made as a way to preserve apples. Thicker than applesauce, the concoction came to the New World with the early settlers and from there traveled to the Ozark region with the pioneers. Since apple orchards were once very common in portions of the Ozarks, apple butter became an autumn favorite, one that sweetened an often basic menu. The sale of apple butter normally funds numerous charitable events in the community.

Although the event has been cancelled, organizers say it will return next year, with dates for Apple Butter Makin' Days set for October 8-10, 2021. All vendor fees for this year will be returned.Apple Butter Makin' Days cancelled over coronavirus concerns