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Insider's guide to the Apple Festival

Apple Festival photo courtesy of Carolina Camera Club. Apple Festival photo courtesy of Carolina Camera Club.

The North Carolina Apple Festival is Hendersonville's annual celebration of the apple and the farmers who grow them. It's also a big old street fair, block party and old-fashion celebration of Hendersonville, which a lot of people like to think of as an All-American town. Here is the Lightning's guide to the Apple Festival and all things apple.

When did it start?
Sixty-six years ago, if you're talking about the version that we have today. However, the Apple Festival actually started in the 1930s in Saluda, down the mountain from here on the Green River. Four days might seem like a long time to celebrate the apple but it's actually scaled back. In the 1950s and '60s it lasted two weeks and included big sidewalk sales, a weeklong beauty pageant and a ball. The original Apple Festival actually started in 1936 in Saluda.

Who runs it?
A board of 37 members, an executive director and hundreds of volunteers. "When you get on this board you're assigned a job to do," said executive director David Nicholson, a past Henderson County manager. "Everybody works before the festival or during the festival doing something.

How's the apple crop?
Not so good, volume-wise. An April freeze killed the fruit at many orchards and a hailstorm in June whacked a segment of the apple country. Some growers suffered a loss of 80 to 90 percent of their crop, the ApplesNoPickHenderson County farm agent says. Still, other growers were spared the cold because of higher elevation or wind patterns. "The farmers tell us there are going to be a few less varieties and less of some varieties but some say they're going to have quite a few apples," said Nicholson. "There will be locally grown apples at the festival."

Where do we get them?
Twelve apple growers have booths on Main Street for the festival, down two from last year. Two growers told Apple Festival officials they did not have enough apples this year to sell at the festival. (They'll be back next year.) Aside from Main Street, you can visit more than 25 publicly open farms, U-pick orchards and roadside stands to buy fresh apples and feast on apple fritters, turnovers, fried apple pies and more.

What's in the street fair?
There are about 115 booths on seven blocks of Main Street between Barnwell Street to Sixth Avenue, not counting the food booths between Barnwell and Caswell streets. Some examples of booths and activities: arts and crafts, the U.S. Marines, Community Partnership for Pets, Henderson County Beekeepers, Henderson County Republican and Democratic parties, the Mountain Shag Club exhibition and shag lessons, Our State Magazine and the all-important Kimberly Clark Baby Changing Station. About 60 percent of the booths are Henderson County people, organization or businesses. If it gets too hot, head to the Farm Bureau booth. Folks there will be running a fan that blows a cool mist.

Anything new?
Yes. New this year is a Greenways booth, which is taking a survey of residents' ideas on pedestrian needs and bikeways; the Wingate University pharmacy and MBA schools, which now have branches in Hendersonville; and Front Porch Ice Cream, a new brand made in Mooresville, which will be giving away samples. One other addition this year is the ECO bike tour, which starts in Hendersonville and goes to the Staton orchard in Dana and to an organic orchard. That was limited to 40 riders and registration closed Aug. 27. A new food vendor, D's Kitchen, will serve ribeye sandwiches and grilled chicken sandwiches. "He tells me he's going to do deep-fried Oreos," Nicholson said.

Anything else?
There might be more sightings than usual of Democrats, an endangered species in these parts. "One thing we did this year (in marketing) was we reached into the Charlotte area because they've told us a lot of people will be looking at something to do" while they visit North Carolina, Nicholson said. CBS Evening News contacted Nicholson about featuring the Apple Festival in its coverage of North Carolina events around the Democratic National Convention.

Where are the bathrooms?
A few places. The festival pulls in trailer restrooms. They're located on Fourth Avenue between Main and Church streets, on First Avenue between Main and King, and on Barnwell between Main and Church. They're pretty nice. The Visitors Center at 201 S. Main St. also has bathrooms. "We expect about 3,000 people a day for four days," Henderson County Travel and Tourism director Beth Carden told the T&T board last week. "That's a lot of toilet paper." Locals will tell you it's easier to find a bathroom downtown during the Apple Festival than during the 51 non-festival weekends.

Can my dog come to the festival?
AppTabNoDogsUnfortunately, no. Although dogs like Buddy and Katie, the Jack Russells shown here, love visiting downtown Hendersonville, they're not allowed during the Apple Festival. Service dogs are OK.

What about entertainment?
There's plenty. After the grand opening ceremony and the announcement of the 2012 Apple Farmer of the Year, performances on the Main Stage go from morning until night and include bluegrass, gospel, country, rock and big band music, dance, magic and more. Headliners are the Buddy K Big Band on Friday, the Hoss Howard Band (country rock) and Too Much Sylvia (classic rock) on Saturday, and Stephen Freeman (Elvis) and the Tony Howard Band (beach, Motown, soul) on Sunday.

Got beer?
No. The Apple Festival has never allowed it. Restaurants downtown sell beer and wine and mixed drinks.