Hendersonville – Mid-August is considered the start of the apple season in Western North Carolina. A few of the farms are already offering early apple varieties—such as Gingergold and Zestar to their customers, plus many other delicious items that can be made from apples like apple cider, apple slushes, apple butter, apple ice cream, and the all American apple pie. So the season has started. Yes indeed, the 77th King Apple Festival will take place this Labor Day Weekend in Hendersonville.
There are a number of activities from which to choose. On Friday, September 1, from 7:00 am to 10:00 am, the Kiwanis is holding a pancake breakfast to “kick off” the Festival at the First United Methodist Church on 6th Avenue W. Tickets are only $10.00 for all you can eat. In the afternoon at 2:15 pm the Festival Opening Ceremony will take place at the Historic Courthouse Square at which the United Community Bank will announce the Apple Grower of the Year. All weekend, from Friday to Monday, a mini-street fair will take place on Main Street, which will be lined with arts/crafts dealers, apple growers,and food vendors. In addition over the weekend at Wells Fargo Bank and the Visitor Center Parking Lots there will be rides and entertainment geared for younger children. The Apple Festival Races, presented by Hunter Subaru (a 8K and 5K race) will also take place; a car show, featuring the British Car Club of WNC, will be held on Saturday Sept 2nd; and WNC Air Museum will be open and showing vintage aircraft from the ’30’s, 40’s and 50’s in addition to offering air craft rides for a fee. On Sunday, Sept. 3rd, will be a full breakfast with the Elks ($9.00 in advance, $10 on the day) at 546 North Justice Street. All these activities, with days and times specified, are listed in the Apple Festival Brochure, found at ncapplefestival.org.
As a kickoff to the actual festive parade on Monday, Labor Day, there will be a vintage aircraft fly over, sponsored by the WNC Air Museum. Then, beginning at 2:30 pm rain or shine, the 77th King Apple Parade will roll down North Main Street and Asheville Highway to South Main Street and East Caldwell. You will be able to see marching bands, official government dignitaries, festival honorees, the firemen, policemen, and numerous schools, organizations and charities passing by and waving. The North Carolina Apple Festival is a non-profit entity, organized and operated by an all-volunteer Board of Directors and volunteer event staff.
The 2023 King Apple Parade Grand Marshal this year will be Evelyn Uhrlasse. She became involved as an NC Apple Festival volunteer at the suggestion of a friend and has served as its Recording Secretary since 1999. Mrs. Uhrlasse and her husband, Arnold, relocated from New York, and she says that being on the Apple Festival Board is the highlight of her life because of the numerous locals she has met, and becoming close with the apple grower’s community. Mrs. Uhrlasse says, “The Apple Festival is such a positive part of (my) life in Hendersonville and (I) continue to be impressed and inspired by others on the board and committees that work quietly and diligently all year.”
The 2023 Apple Ambassador is Jackie Hernandez, a rising senior at Hendersonville High School. Jackie is the daughter of Josefina N. Ades. The Apple Ambassador represents the Festival at many events across the State and is chosen from local rising high school seniors. She will receive a $2,000 college scholarship from the Evelyn Lutz Hill Memorial Scholarship. The scholarship is named for and honors Evelyn Lutz Hill, who served as the Secretary of the North Carolina Apple Growers for many years. She was serving as president of the Apple Festival when she passed away in 2004. Jackie will be riding on a float during the parade on Labor Day. The runner-up is Destiny Simotics, a rising senior at East Henderson High School and will be riding with her. Simotics is the granddaughter of Mike and Laura O’Connor. She will be awarded a $1,000 college scholarship.
AdventHealth recently announced that it will be the presenting sponsor. Founded in 1910, AdventHealth Hendersonville, formerly Park Ridge Health, is dedicated to meeting the health care needs of our growing communities, providing high-quality, compassionate, not-for-profit care in a Christian environment. “AdventHealth is thrilled to once again be the presenting sponsor for the North Carolina Apple Festival and its celebration of our incredible apple industry,” says Victoria Dunkle, AdventHealth Spokesperson. “Our connection to the apple industry goes back more than a century. We have been caring for the apple farmers and producers since we opened our doors in 1910.”
Because of a late spring frost, the apple harvest in this area suffered this year and is probably down approximately 40%; the peach and pear crop suffered even further damage. Some farms completely lost their peach and pear crop. Apples are one of the most important agricultural crops grown in Henderson County, with 91 active growers producing an estimated million bushels annually. Eighty percent (80%) of this state’s apple supply are from Henderson County with an average income of $30 million. North Carolina is considered the 7th largest producer of apples in the United States.