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MossColumn: Make the Apple Festival hoppier

It's too late for this year, which is fine. I'm guessing it will take more than one year of advocacy for my idea to take hold. It will have to gain traction inch by inch before it reaches critical mass, and that might still be a long way off.


I'm talking, of course, about beer at the North Carolina Apple Festival. ... (Pause for the Apple Festival Powers-that-Be to recover from the vapors and regain consciousness.)
I've been arguing for beer at the Apple Festival for as long as I've attended the Apple Festival, muttering about it to myself and a few trustworthy confidants mostly but also endorsing it publicly a few times.
A couple of years ago, David Nicholson, the Apple Festival's executive director, told me he had turned down a large monetary offer from one of the big domestic beer distributors to open the festival to a beer truck.
Things have changed since the Apple Festival was founded, of course, and they have changed since Nicholson brushed off the festival beer idea.

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Let's look dispassionately at our cultural and economic landscape today.
Exhibit 1 is Hendersonville's Rhythm & Brews concert series.
Anyone can have an outdoor concert in downtown Hendersonville. In fact, anyone does. We have them every Friday and Monday night in the summer.
The city's downtown development coordinator, Lew Holloway, and its downtown advisory committee and the City Council last year took the bold step to add beer and wine to the music performance, and the third Thursday hasn't been the same since.
I've heard a comment that people make when someone suggests beer on Main Street during the Apple Festival. "Do we have to make beer a part of everything?" First of all, no, we don't have to. And second of all, we don't. Beer is not a part of anything except that one thing I just mentioned.
Music on Main and the Monday Night Street Dance expressly bar alcohol. We don't have beer at Garden Jubilee, the sidewalk antique show, Art on Main, Chalk It Up!, Trick or Treat Street or any of our 500 classic car shows.
Exhibit 2: Let's look at Sierra Nevada. Judging from the large mellow crowd on hand for the big craft beer festival on Sunday, our new friends from Chico are on their way to potentially drawing a half-million people a year to the Mills River brewery. That's half the tourism numbers that the Biltmore house bags, and it's the most successful tourism magnet in the state.
Exhibit 3: Let's look at the rapidly rising hard cider industry here. Jim Sparks, Tom Davis, John Coker and Jim Revis launched the Naked Apple cidery in Flat Rock. Saint Paul Mountain Vineyards is coming out with its first vintage of hard cider this summer and a successful cider-maker in Virginia, Bold Rock, plans to build a plant here.
In fact, beer is a better idea now than it was 10 years ago because the craft beer industry is strongly pumping piston of our tourism motor. Granted, unlike with hard cider, we cannot boast that craft beer is made of local ingredients (unless you count water, the biggest ingredient by volume).

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Finally, ladies and gentleman of the jury — wait! Now I am worried that I just sounded like Stephen Black in that phrase, although let the record show I did not intone "Dearly beloved." As I was saying, ladies and gentleman, I will explain the orderly and family friendly way to organize beer at the Apple Festival. The beer garden is made up of local breweries only. We don't need Budweiser, Coors and Miller Lite, even if they are waving large wads of cash at David Nicholson. The beer garden is open only from 7 p.m. to closing. It's managed with the now common controls of wristbands and beer tickets. The beer garden is gated off from the rest of the festival — down one of the avenues or on one end.
I would condone the customary festival price inflation of $6 a cup and direct part of the proceeds to fund apple marketing, apple research and scholarships for high school seniors going into farming.
Every year for 15 years I have in one form or another been involved in the gripping investigative journalism story that asks, "What's new at the Apple Festival this year?" Last year it was the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles. I am not making that up.
Want to get people revved up? Try announcing that this year we're having beer!
The squealing and the squawking and fire and brimstone will rain down from the heavens. And when the caterwauling dies down, watch the event happen. Watch the crowds grow. And wait for the refrain from clusters of happy festival folk sipping on a Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA or a Southern Appalachian Brewery Copperhead Amber Ale. Verily, they will say, What took us so long?