On February 9th, Western Cider hosts the seasonal rite of Wassail. The ancient ritual of wassailing apple trees is well known in the cider regions of England. Western Cider is in their second year of bringing their version of Wassail to Montana. Humorous and strange rituals are performed to ward off bad spirits from the orchard and encourage the good spirits to provide a bountiful crop for the following year.
In some traditions, the men of a village went out to the orchards carrying the “wassail bowl” filled with warm cider, to serenade and ridicule the apple trees into producing fruit.
The festivities will include costumed pageantry, singing, theater, and music in their outdoor cider garden. Ken Grinde will produce and direct a small play for this year’s event. Ken has assembled a group of local actors, a choir, and the River City Players to entertain. The first cider from Western’s orchard harvest will be released the night of Wassail. They are also serving a special, hot drink made from a New England style cider they call The Colonial.
Western Cider is encouraging everyone to attend the festivities in “Old World” costumes. They will be hosting several workshops in their tasting room to help prepare you for the festivities including mask, crown, and costume making - in partnership with Zootown Arts Community Center, Farm Hand Farm, and Earth Within Flowers. The Clay Studio of Missoula previously hosted a clay cup making class to equip attendees with an old-style cup to drink out of during the celebration.
You can follow Western Cider’s stories on Instagram and Facebook as they familiarize the community with this ancient celebration. “Since last year, our goal with Wassail has been to bring the community together during a bleak time of year in the hope of a good harvest. We want to partner with artists, performers, and anyone excited to add to Wassail’s participatory nature. It’s a holiday we know Missoula will have fun with once they understand its heritage and concept. It’s the best party in Missoula!” says Matthew LaRubbio, co-owner at Western Cider.
Western Cider is asking that people dress warm and arrive around 5pm on Saturday, February 9th. A suggested entry of $5 is being asked to support the performers. See facebook.com/westerncider/events