For Apple Fest veterans, this weekend brought the familiar tastes of doughnuts, caramelized apples and cider back to downtown Ithaca. For students who just arrived on East Hill, the 35th annual Apple Harvest Festival served as an introduction to the delicacies that could bring them back to the Ithaca Commons every fall.
Thousands of people converged on the Commons this weekend for live music, carnival games and every sort of apple-related food imaginable. Colorful pop-up stands and food trucks filled the Commons and extended onto side streets, creating an atmosphere packed with noise, laughter and delicious aromas from savory to sweet.
“It’s such a great festival, and everybody’s having fun and in such a great mood,” said Reenie Baker-Sandsted of Baker’s Acres.
Baker’s Acres sells a variety of apples and cider and has been a part of the annual festival for more than 25 years.
Every year, the festival attracts over 35,000 people, Downtown Ithaca Alliance said on its website. Many people come from around the state, but a large proportion of attendees are students at Cornell and Ithaca College.
Marley Short ’19 said she was a tour guide and always talked about the festivals in Ithaca while on the job.
“It’s part of being a student here,” she said.
Apple Fest, as it is commonly known, provides thousands of customers for vendors, and students like Carter Fontaine ’19 said they look forward to it each year.
“It’s always super fun,” Fontaine said.
This year, the festival kicked off only days after a significant drop in temperature, a factor that Baker believed might have actually boosted attendance.
“We love it when it’s cooler because it really feels like fall, and everybody’s really in the mood,” she said. “It feels very busy today.”
Rob Parcell, of the Maple River Syrup Company, agreed.
“This has been the best event that we go to throughout any event in the state in terms of sales and number of people we come in contact with,” Parcell said. “It’s probably our best event of the year.”
Parcell said events like Apple Fest are important for small vendors to get exposure to people they would not normally reach, a side of the fair that event-goers enjoy as well.
Jessie Yee ’20 said Apple Fest allows people “to see that Ithaca actually has a variety of people.”
“I don’t normally think too much about the local farms but I get to see them all here,” Yee said.
“It’s a very diverse crowd and it’s almost like a very international crowd,” Parcell said. “You actually meet people from not only all over the country, but from different countries as well.”
People swarm the downtown streets for a wide variety of food, including the festival’s signature apple cider doughnut, even though the line for the cider doughnuts stretched hundreds of people long at some points.
Though much of the festival food is to be enjoyed immediately, there were also plenty of opportunities for attendees to take home produce, baked goods, cider, syrup and more for the fall season.
Josh Quan ’20 said he was especially excited to buy food and store it at home.
“This year we can buy pies and stuff,” said Quan, who moved off-campus this year. “It’s kind of inconvenient to store pies in the freshman dorm.”
David Flores ’19 summed up what he enjoyed most about the sights, smells and winding stalls of Apple Fest.
“I love coming down to Apple Fest because I get to hang out with my friends, eat some good food and share the awesome Commons with students and the community,” Flores said.