With freshly-picked apples, and apples simmered into apple butter, nestled into pies, or churned into homemade ice cream, the Lincoln County Apple Festival will celebrate the area’s apple-growing heritage and the community as a whole
The festival covers roughly a dozen city blocks in downtown Lincoln and will feature approximately 200 local food and crafts vendors, an apple dish contest, a Rotary 5K race, a farmers’ market, an Apple Queen Pageant, live entertainment, and kids’ activities.
“(It’s) good smells, good food, good people. Just blocks and blocks and blocks as far as you can see of fun things to do,” said Joyce Dorsey, administrative assistant for Lincoln County’s Cooperative Extension Service, and coordinator of the festival.
The extension service partners with the official Lincoln County Apple Festival board of directors to organize the festival, which is now in its 42nd year.
Regular festival-goers know to arrive early to score plenty of apple treats before they sell out, Dorsey said. Four local orchards will sell fresh apples, and some will offer homemade cider and apple ice cream that is churned on the spot. The extension service’s senior citizens group serves up old-fashioned apple butter – a labor-of-love process that can take more than a day to prepare.
“They can run circles around you and me. They’re stirring (the apple butter) the whole time, and they have fun doing it,” said Dorsey.
The Extension and Community Association sells whole apple pies, another popular dish, and raises funds for community projects like scholarships.
In the apple dish contest, residents can compete for cash prizes in six categories: main dish; cakes and breads; pies; apple jelly, butter, and jam; miscellaneous, and youth (ages 8-19).
“This apple dish contest is exceptional,” said Dorsey. “Great apple pies and cakes and salads – you name it. Some of the simplest recipes are submitted by our youth, and they are sometimes the Grand Prize winners.”
A section of the festival called the Kids’ Orchard offers 4-H informational booths and activities for kids, including pony and camel rides.
The festival as a whole is committed to supporting the community, said Dorsey. The food vendors are all nonprofit groups, and all the craft vendors must live in Lincoln County or adjacent counties.
“We want people to know the talent that we have in Lincoln County and the surrounding area,” said Dorsey. “You don’t have to go to Asheville to see art. You can stay right here and see the woodworkers, you can stay right here and see, with seamstresses, the quilts, the pottery.”
The Apple Festival T-shirt contest also reaches out to the broader community. Each year, residents submit designs for a festival T-shirt to represent Lincoln County. After a committee chooses the winning design, local nonprofits can apply to sell the T-shirt as a fundraiser.
A committee chooses the nonprofit that makes the most compelling case for why it should have the chance to raise funds. This year’s winning designer is Halee Good, and all proceeds from T-shirt sales will support AVID – a sexual assault and rape crisis program in Lincoln and Gaston County.
The festival strives to involve and support residents from all corners of Lincoln County and the surrounding area, said Dorsey.
“The apple festival is the community,” she said. “That’s why it was started.”
In 1972, the extension service first teamed up with local apple growers to host a festival, inspired by a strawberry festival in Eastern North Carolina. The festival started in a fellowship hall, and kept outgrowing different venues around Lincolnton.
“Before you knew it, it was on a street or two, and now it takes up the whole city,” said Dorsey.
Lincoln County was once “heavy into apples,” but the orchards shut down over the years, she said.
“A lot of the children don’t want to do what their parents did,” Dorsey said.
Yet she reports that the extension office receives calls weekly from people who want to start a farm or move to Lincoln County to start a farm. A few have even called for the specific purpose of opening an orchard.
“Would you believe there is a revival now?” Dorsey said.
Julia Sendor is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Julia? Email her at email@example.com
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