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GOOD JOB!/NEEDS WORK ... Apple Festival edition

Good job!

You’ve got your McMurray family’s plate of piping hot freshly cut French fries, your turkey drumsticks and Philly cheese steaks, your street festival booths offering vintage signs, jewelry, pottery and paintings, your kiddie rides and mineral museum. You’ve got your apple turnovers, fried apple pies, apple slushies, apple cobbler, apple samples and apple recipe contest. You’ve got mainstage entertainment from Big Band to bluegrass to beach to rock’n’roll. You’ve got prime people-watching and old-friend greetings, and of course, the All-American King Apple Parade. But biggest of all, you’ve got your apple crop — and this year, we do mean big. Barring a late season weather threat that whacks the crop, this year’s harvest is stacking up as one of the best in a generation — knock on wood apple bin staged in the orchard ready to fill. Apple farmers who saw their crops decimated last year by freeze and heavily damaged by frost, freeze, rain, hail, fungus or wind over the past 10-15 years are filled with a mix of a relief and joy this year. “This year’s crop is nothing short of answered prayers,” Don Justus, who owns Justus Orchard in Fruitland, told the Lightning in this issue’s front-page story about the harvest. “After last year’s disastrous crop — every farm was wiped out — this year we have a beautiful crop of apples.” Justus and other U-pick orchard and roadside stand growers are reporting flocks of apple buyers in what’s still the runup to the biggest weekends. Commercial growers of fresh apples and even process apples are celebrating a big crop with surprisingly decent prices, in part because Washington state has had a less productive harvest. Here’s to the apple, the reason we celebrate the farm community and its contributions to our way of life.

Needs work … Local folks that belly-ache like they ate one too many green apples throughout the North Carolina Apple Festival about … restaurant lines, traffic, the noise, the crowds, etc. For most of us, this is a weekend to celebrate and honor apples. If you don’t like it, quitcherbitchin’, lay in provisions and stay home from Thursday night until Tuesday morning.

Good job! It’s easy to forget now but for a while, after the festival’s longtime executive director resigned over his offensive Juneteenth crack, there was some doubt about whether there would be a 76th annual Apple Festival. After the pandemic challenges of the past two years, 2022 was supposed to be a smooth cruise to normalcy. In the face of uncertainty, the volunteer executive committee and board of directors responded like the never-say-die community champions they are. They hoisted the four-day festival upon their collective broad shoulders, stiffened their upper lip and marched on. To list the leaders by name poses the great risk of leaving someone out. So if you spot VOLUNTEER-emblazoned folks on the street, give them a fist bump, a virtual hug, a big thank you and … Good Job!