Apple Festival

We attended the Apple Festival, this weekend hosted in Hendersonville, NC.  This picture below is one of the apple orchards near my home.  The whole countryside here is dotted with these beautiful apple trees.

According to an Asheville Citizen Times article, the state of North Carolina ranks number 7  in the whole United States for apple production.  Henderson County produces 65% of North Carolina’s apples with about $22 million dollars in revenue each year.  The article states that about 150 growers farm about 5,000 acres in orchards in Henderson County.  It is a huge industry here, and the kick off for the harvest season is this annual festival.  The article also stated that the festival has been hosted here in Hendersonville, NC for the past 65 years and that farmers have been growing apples here since the 1700’s.  You can read the article at this link

My husband and two of our boys worked a morning shift for 4H car parking.  It was a fundraiser for the 4H program of Henderson County. 

In the afternoon, when Dad and the older boys got home, we went back to the festival as a family and looked around.  

There were lots of varieties of fresh apples available to choose from.

Several local orchard farm stands were there. 

One of our favorite treats was a refreshing apple slushy.  It was basically partially frozen apple cider and it was delicious.  But it only came in small styrofoam cups.  Would love to have had a big jug of this yummy stuff.

Another special vender was this homemade ice cream by Knob Creek. 

They had a special contraption set up for automatically freezing fresh ice cream on the spot.  This reminded me of Indiana.  At every county fair in Indiana we had friendly local venders making fresh ice cream this way.  It is interesting to see how the machine works.

The highlight for the children was a wooden toy vender.  In addition to wooden cars, boats, trucks, and trains, they had wooden guns and sling shots that used a variety of things like rubber bands or ping pong balls to shoot targets.  Prices ranged from $3 and up for various styles.

This was definitely fun for the boys.  They love shooting targets.  We got them each a small target gun to play with, except the two youngest got a cork type popping gun that only makes sound, it doesn’t actually shoot.

Our six year old brought his own $6, and begged to buy his own gun.  He settled on a gun made from PVC pipe and uses a marshmallow as ammo.  You blow in one end and shoot a mini marshmallow out the other.  He is thrilled.

Then we spotted another homeschool family we know and it was fun for the kids to see someone familiar.  But it was so crowded, we did not get a chance to visit for more than a moment.

My honest opinion:  I had mixed feelings about the Apple Festival experience.  There were some interesting moments, but overall it was not as family friendly as I had hoped for several reasons.  I don’t often complain.  I am easy going and go with the flow.  But this experience definitely had me questioning if I would ever bring my kids again, at least while they were young.  Perhaps when they are older it would be more appropriate, but I don’t know.

I had hoped it would be a good educational experience for my children.  This was not the case.  There were not opportunities for kids to learn about apple production that we could find.  And we honestly looked for them. 

What a shame because this festival would have been a great opportunity to teach kids and adults about apples, the history of apples, the geography of apples, the science of apples, what tractors and equipment is used, how apples are grown, how apples are harvested, about herbicides and pesticides, about immigration and work permits as there are a huge amount of hispanic workers who come to Hendersonville from Mexico to work the orchards and produce fields here, etc.   They could have learned about soils and rainfall and weather too.  There could have been a display about insects and pests that farmers deal with.  How about a microscope display to see closeups of things we can’t see with our eyes.  Even a display about wild animals that frequent the orchards.  What about bees and honey?  They could also have had apple contests and apple games, apple pie eating contest, apple bobbing, apple shooters, apple smash, demonstrations on making apple cider or other apple products, etc.  They could have set up a living history display with Johnny Appleseed too, especially since farming apples here dates back to the 1700’s.  Even displays from local schools, or displays from local artists with an apple or orchard theme. 

ad of an opportunity to learn about apples at the Apple Festival, there was only vender after vender selling various products.  The crowd was so huge and lines so long, you did not have a chance to visit with any venders or craftsmen.  Most of the venders did not seem to support the apple theme except for the few farm stands with fresh apples and jellies. 

The only thing my children learned is that everyone there was out to make money.  That lesson in itself could be educational if we were focussed on marketing and economics.  I know money is important.  I know the local economy needs money.  But why make a special town event all about that?  Why forego the opportunity to teach history and science and make it family friendly?  When you are inviting the public to visit your town, there is always history, culture, science, art, and more to learn about. This is what really makes the experience special and makes people want to come back.

I had my heart set on finding a loaf of apple bread (similar to a moist zucchini bread or pumpkin bread) and baked apple products, and I really wanted a homemade apple pie.  I also wanted a gallon of fresh apple cider.  Guess what?  I searched up and down the street and did not find any of these.  Perhaps it was there, and I just did not find it after three hours of looking.   This was discouraging.

There were lots of fresh apples, jars of apple butter and apple jelly, and a few venders had caramel apples or sliced apples with caramel sauce.  But other than lots of varieties of fresh apples, the selection of apple products was really much less than I had expected.   There were small individual serving of fried pies everywhere, but no “real” apple pie. 

I settled for an apple caramel funnel cake.  It tasted good, but it was not the best choice, because it doesn’t travel, we had to eat right away in the heat, it was hot just out of the fryer, it was messy and sticky on a very thin, flimsy paper plate with no where to wash your hands amongst the thousands of festival goers.  They did a good job making it though.

It was so hot, I could not hold onto the plate.  My husband held it momentarily for a picture.  But we quickly found a flower bed edge along the sidewalk to set it on.

Before leaving, I found a loaf of apple bread similar to monkey bread.  It was made with lots of tiny balls of dough, squished and baked into a loaf shape.  But I was not happy with it when we cut into it at home.  The loaf was dry, not very fresh, and not very tasty. You could not even taste any apples.  The little pieces of dough made it look like apples, but there were not even enough to taste.  They should have put lots of apples in this, but they didn’t.  Only one of my five children ate part of it.  No one else would eat it.  Even though it looked pretty, it did not taste good, and was so discouraging. 

When we went down the mountain in July, to the Blueberry Festival in Greenville, everything was so fresh and delicious.  Yes it was hot there, but it was still a good family experience for several reasons.  It was affordable.  It was personable.  There was opportunity to visit the venders and talk about what they grew or made.  It was very educational for children and the whole family.  It was hands on.  People were nice and helpful and reached out to the public.  There was plenty of room and it was just a pleasant experience.  But the Apple Festival was not as pleasant, educational, or as personable as it could have been.

The main problem for our family was that the festival was incredibly crowded.  I don’t think I have ever in my life been to a place that was more crowded.  You only have the width of the narrow street, minus the vender’s spaces on both sides.  It was very difficult to walk through the narrow street, to the point it was not enjoyable to try to walk through at all.  We had all five children in tow, and it was nerve wracking to hang onto each one as thousands of people were inches from each other, many times bumping into each other on the sunny, hot street.  It was very uncomfortable.  There was just not enough room to walk freely, let alone stay together. 

Several times we left the crowded street and went over behind the venders and walked the also crowded sidewalk to get through sections of the street that were so crowded we couldn’t get through.  Sometimes the crowd on the street just stopped moving and you had no where to go but stand still until it moved again.   But going to the sidewalk meant missing the venders and seeing what they were making and selling. 

On one excursion off the street, we found this sweet family resting their dogs in the small amount of shade next to a building.  They actually had three little dogs in this stroller and my kids thought that was really funny.  The older gentleman seemed so tired. 

We spent three hours at the festival, and were very discouraged upon leaving.  There just wasn’t a good solution or situation for a large family to enjoy this together given the amount of people and the crowded space. 

Perhaps in future festivals, the town could take two streets and a few connecting streets, and make the festival a little more spread out to give the crowd more room to maneuver.  This has always been the case in other towns we have been to over the past 22 years we have been visiting festivals.  Maybe they could put venders on one side of the street instead of both sides since it leaves so little room for the crowd to go through on this narrow street.  But to try to navigate the entire festival down one long narrow street was very difficult.

We did take a few pictures with the bear statues on the sidewalks up and down main street.

Just before leaving, we spotted this statue that was alive.  That was interesting as you don’t often see this.  The kids recognized how difficult this would be to stand perfectly still on this platform and act like a statue as hundreds or maybe thousands of people passed by.

Then we headed home, very hot and tired.  There were aspects of the festival that were nice, and there were aspects that were not so great.  Like I said, the experience left me with mixed feelings.  I hope in the future, the organizers will take the time to include more family friendly programs, educational programs, and find a way to manage the over crowded conditions.  Then the festival would really be a great experience to bring even more families to year after year. 

I do appreciate the hard work of the farm families and hispanic workers who work the orchards.  And I appreciate the town putting the event together to celebrate the new apple season.   I am not trying to put down the hard work people did to put this event together.  I am only making a few suggestions on how it could be so much better.

We had hoped to return for the parade Monday, but Hendersonville received heavy rains and it was not feasible to go in the down pour.  A lot of other people we know had planned to go and were disappointed it rained too. 

In less than a few hundred feet of the interstate at exit 53 on Monday, I counted at least 40 RV motor homes and hundreds of cars.  In the past three years, I have never seen that many vehicles in the parking areas of those restaurants, hotels, and stores, on both sides of the interstate.  There wasn’t a parking spot left anywhere.  The little specialty stores even had full lots, and cars parking out on the street.  I am sure this scene was repeated through-out the area.  People needed something to do with it raining the last day of the festival, and it seems they went to see & shop the stores, and to eat.  I hope this rain helped the local economy, even though the Apple Festival goers were lessened by rain and storms.

We plan to do an apple unit study in our school work this fall, and this event was our kick off.  We are going to do a Johnny Appleseed History unit, and How To Bake An Apple Pie And See The World Geography Unit , learn some apple science, visit an apple orchard, in addition to some other apple materials we will add in. 

Share your ideas.  What have you done to teach your kids about apples, orchards, and local produce?  Please leave a comment below.  Thank you.

This post will be linked up with
No Time For Flash Cards
Raising Homemakers
Science Sunday


Please share.
This entry was posted in Family Fun on by .

About Melinda Weiser

I am a sinner, saved by grace. I am on a journey and offer to share my story with the hope that it will bless you. My one desire is to bring glory to my creator. I am a wife and the mother of 6 children, plus two in heaven. I enjoy homeschooling, research, teaching, homesteading, natural gardening, grass based farming, cooking, fresh raw milk, herbs, children, midwifery, and music. I am a writer, biblical mentor, and also work part time in the healthy foods and vitamin business I have a BSW degree from Kansas State University, and trained professionally as a medical social worker, biblical counselor, tutor, and vocal performer. Thank you for stopping by to read about our homeschool and family life adventures. Be blessed!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.