South Charlotte

Festival celebrates apple bounty

North Carolina Apple Festival

Downtown Hendersonville. 828-697-4557.

Hours: All day Sept. 2-5.

Activities: The cooler temperatures and lower-humidity of the southern Blue Ridge is great for summer vacationers - and for apples. Henderson County is about as far south as you'll find commercial orchards in seaboard states. North Carolina ranks seventh nationally in apple production, and 65 percent of the harvest is from the 20-some orchards in Henderson County. We're talking red delicious, Rome beauty, Granny Smith, Stayman, Fuji and gala as well as newer and heritage varieties. Starting in mid-August, you'll see signs and stands along Interstate 26 exits as well as U.S. and state highways. Besides fresh-picked fruit, you're apt to find apple butter, apple cider, jams, jellies, baked goods and more.

But the big deal is the N.C. Apple Festival on Labor Day weekend, when Hendersonville's downtown launches the fall harvest with three days of apple-themed fun. you can stroll a street fair featuring arts-and-crafts and food vendors, exhibits and activities for kids. There's live music daily at the Historic Courthouse. Headliners take the stage at 7:30; 5:30 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday (The Caribbean Cowboys and The Mighty Kicks, respectively) and 5:30 and 8 p.m. Sunday (Still Cruzin'; The Legacy). What you can hear ranges from bluegrass to beach to Motown.

Monday afternoon - Labor Day - is when action focuses on the King Apple Parade; up to 60,000 people are expected.

Admission: Some events are free; others require nominal admission. Get specifics online.

Target audience: Families. Pets not allowed.

Directions: Take Interstate 85 South to U.S. 74 Bypass (at Kings Mountain); take U.S. 74 Bypass West to I-26 (at Columbus); take I-26 northwest briefly to exit 49B (U.S. 64 West), just outside Hendersonville - and keep your eyes peeled for apple-stand signs.

Travel time from Charlotte: Two hours.