The 75th NC Apple Festival Returns This Year - TribPapers

The 75th NC Apple Festival Returns This Year

Sidewalks filled with booths and people over Labor Day weekend for the 75th North Carolina Apple Festival.

Hendersonville – Annually over Labor Day weekend in Hendersonville, the North Carolina Apple Festival is held. This year, happily local growers from Friday, September 3, through Monday, September 6th, can once again celebrate the history and importance of the apple industry in downtown Hendersonville. The parade and street fair will take place.  Fourteen growers are planning to be downtown; thousands of visitors usually attend. Despite the difficulties due to two freezes in the spring,  the local growers will be present with delicious fresh apples for fall recipes.  Last year, the  parade and festival did not take place, because of Covid restrictions.  Visitors drove to the actual farms of the growers where a number of activities often took place, rather than congregating in downtown Hendersonville.  This year of course wearing a mask and social distancing is highly encouraged.   AdventHealth is proud to sponsor this year’s festival along with Optimum, Morris Broadband, Publix, Pepsi, NC Printing, The North Carolina Education Lottery and Morrow Insurance Agency. 

This is a festive weekend in Hendersonville. The streets are lined with apple growers’ booths filled with every variety of apple imaginable, for every taste and use. Some apples are sweet, some tart, but all are best when they have come fresh from the tree. As they ripen, apples become softer and sweeter because of the formation of natural sugars. There is even a booth between 5th and 6th Avenue in front of Kilwins,  where someone can sample a variety of apples— to help a buyer learn more about flavor differences. In addition one can learn about beekeeping and enjoy honey sampling too.  Many booths offer delicious edible products.  You will be tempted with gourmet treats made from apples, such as hot apple cider donuts, fried apple pies, candied apples, apple butter, jellies, jams,  apple slushes, cider, and even apple ice cream.  

The official opening to this Festival is at 4:30 pm on Friday with a  Special Celebration Ceremony in front of the Historic Courthouse on Main Street. Officials of the 75th Apple Festival Board will talk about the history of the festival since its beginning in 1947. The contribution the apple farmers have made to Henderson County is significant. After all North Carolina is ranked 7th in the country for apple production, and Henderson County ranks No. 1 in North Carolina.  So it is understandable that this festival is one of the largest Festivals in the state. The United Community Bank’s Apple Farmer of the Year Award will be announced at this opening ceremony. In 2019, this award was given to Mike Stepp.  He was following in his father’s footstep, as his father, J. H. Stepp,  was the Apple Festival’s 2nd Apple Farmer of the Year in 2010.   Following the remarks,  at 6:00 pm the Buddy K Band will be on stage playing traditional big band music—with classic standards as well as the music of Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey and Count Basie. 

A stage in front of the historic courthouse in Hendersonville, where the opening ceremony is held. Photo courtesy of NC Apple Festival.

Throughout the weekend as you walk along the street, you will see that the retail businesses have arranged their window with displays of apples to be a part of a contest competing for a blue ribbon.  For children at the Wells Fargo Kiddie Carnival, located in the Wells Fargo and Visitor Center parking lots, there will be rides and entertainment for a small fee. Face painting and challenging children’s games will undoubtedly be scattered in various locations.  On Saturday, Sept. 4  at noon The Bandit Flight Team, with their highly trained pilots will be doing two patriotic flyovers at noon—flying 6 planes in formation in vintage aircraft. This has been sponsored by Triangle Stop Food Store. On Saturday the Lions Club is offering a Big Country Breakfast in the First Baptist Church Gym at 4th Avenue and Washington Street.  While on Sunday, September 5th,  the Elks Lodge at 546 North Justice Street is preparing a full apple breakfast too. Both are asking a normal charge. The Mineral & Lapidary Museum, and the WNC Air Museum will all be having events and displays for visitors.

The 2021 Apple Ambassador is Callie Stepp McCall, a student at Mountain Gems Academy. The Apple Ambassador represents the Festival at many events across the State and is chosen from local rising high school seniors. Callie’s parents are Rex and Danielle McCall; her family has owned and operated Stepps’s Hillcrest Orchards for four generations. She will receive a $2,000 college scholarship from the Evelyn Lutz Hill Memorial Scholarship  and will be riding on a float during the parade on Labor Day.  The runner-up for Apple Ambassador is Sadie Anna Rowe, who is a rising senior at Hendersonville High School. Her parents are Charles and Debbie Rowe. Sadie will receive a $1,000 college scholarship. 

The Apple Parade on Labor Day is the closing activity of the festival.  To kickoff the Parade, vintage aircraft will fly over Main Street (sponsored by WNC Air Museum). Then starting at 2:30 pm the Henderson County Honor Guard leads the Parade, followed  by colorful professional floats, fire trucks, antique cars, political groups, and all four Hendersonville High School bands, and other groups with a large crowd watching on the sidelines.

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