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Apple Festival director David Nicholson forecast good weather, big crowds and enthusiasm for new features at the 68th North Carolina Apple Festival, which opened Friday and continues through Labor Day.
Asked on Tuesday how the festival plans were going, he said, "It would be OK if people would quit bringing up beer and wine."
His response was a joking reference to a column in the Hendersonville Lightning recommending a beer garden at the Apple Festival. Beer won't be among the new things to enjoy at this year's festival but a few other features will be.
The festival is adding some small entertainment acts at crosswalks in an effort to pull festival traffic toward the shops on Main Street.
"In the middle of the block they have made those crosswalks really wide so this year we're jugglers, face painters, artists, clowns," he said. "Hopefully it will get people visiting merchants more. It puts them on the sidewalks."
The festival is adding a bungee trampoline at the north end of Main Street. And it's taking something away — Styrofoam.
"We've been recycling for a number of years but this year we've outlawed Styrofoam," Nicholson said. "That's a major effort to reduce our waste stream."
The Apple Festival teamed up with Henderson County's Environmental Programs and Solid Waste Division and an Asheville company on the pilot program to turn food waste into compost. For the first time the festival will place dumpsters with green lids on the street for patrons to deposit food plates and cups.
Vendors "are required this year to not serve any kind of food or drinks in Styrofoam containers," said Rachel Hodge, Henderson County's environmental programs coordinator. "The reason that's significant is the paper waste can be composted with the food scraps so we should have a huge number of tons that are going to be composted and not landfilled."
The food waste will be processed by Danny's Dumpster, the only permitted compost processing facility in western North Carolina.
"We will weigh it before we haul it to Asheville so I'll have waste number," Hodge said.
As for beer and wine, that's still a no, no matter what the cup's made of.
Alan Ward, the owner of Saint Paul Mountain Vineyards, would like to see that change.
"We're not wanting to be like Bele Cher," he said.
Ward has poured wine at a festival in Morganton that he says models a safe and tasteful wine presence.
"It's at the old Courthouse, you've got a gate coming into it," he said. "You don't take it out. It's part of their bigger fall festival."
If the Apple Festival honors the apple, it also could make room for another growing part of the farm economy.
"I'm going to have a conversation with David Nicholson," he said. "I think there's a way you could tastefully do it where it's family friendly. I would not want it open to distributors. That's the problem with wine festivals now; you've got too many non-local people selling stuff."
"We are a major part of agriculture," he added. "I just think that there is a way to do it tastefully and respectfully."
Nicholson insisted the idea of beer and wine sales is really not a hot topic.
"I know you don't believe this but it's not on our radar screen," he said.
In a poll on HendersonvilleLightning.com, readers voted against beer at the Apple Festival 150 to 132.
The weather forecast for the Apple Festival looks typical.
After mostly sunny skies on opening day on Friday, we'll have partly sunny skies, highs in the mid-80s and a 30-40 percent chance of afternoon showers through Labor Day, the National Weather Service said.
Nicholson keeps a sunny outlook even when it comes to rain.
"Unlike a lot of festivals, if we do get an afternoon shower, our people don't leave," he said. "They go to the downtown shops and restaurants and when the sun comes out they come back."
The festival expanded advertising this year to the South Carolina Upstate and the Charlotte area. The buzz, Nicholson said, has been good.
"A lot of people have been calling," he said. "We're almost out of brochures. There seems to be a lot of interest about the festival this year."