Boris Tsang / Sun Assistant Photography Editor

Students wait in long lines for apple cider donuts in the 36th Annual Apple Fest.

September 30, 2018

36th Annual Apple Fest Brings ‘Fall Spirit’ to Ithaca

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From carnival games to face painting, mittens to knitted crop tops and apples to mac and cheese, Apple Fest offered fun and food for everyone there.

Every fall, Apple Harvest Festival, more commonly called Apple Fest, opens in the downtown Ithaca Commons. From Friday to Sunday, farmers, restaurants and artisans set up booths showing the local residents what they have to offer. Free carnival games were set up for children to play.

“There’s not many things to do in Ithaca,” Klaudia Kokoska ’20 told The Sun. “[Apple Fest] gets you to the fall spirit.”

For its 36th year, Apple Fest is expected to have around 33,000 people and 120 vendors, according to Summer Keown, special events director for Downtown Ithaca Alliance, which plans the event.

One of the most popular goods was the cider doughnuts. Even though Apple Fest officially started at 10 a.m., a line started forming in front of the booth for Littletree Orchards, a farm south of Ithaca which is the oldest cider doughnut vendor in Apple Fest, even before it opened.

“I grew up going to Apple Fest and managed the booth for 10 years,” said Amara Steinkraus, who runs the farm originally established by her mother in the 1970’s.

Kokoska, who also attended Apple Fest last year, was one of the many people who wanted cider doughnuts, but chose to wait in the line at Indian Creek Farm instead.

The doughnuts might have had the longest lines, but fundamental to Apple Fest is, of course, the apples. Booths sold apples by the bag or by the pound in countless varieties from “ginger gold” to “NJ109”. Each type of apple varied in its sweetness, size and color.

The festival has evolved overtime. Debbie Teeter, A.J. Teeter Farm’s 6th generation owner, noticed differences from when her farm first appeared at Apple Fest. The farm, established in 1847, has been at Apple Fest for 24 years.

“We started out and had one booth and we sold mainly vegetables,” Teeter told The Sun. “[Apple Fest] started out as an bigger opportunity for farm vendors, like the farmers market. Now it’s touristy stuff.”

Teeter doesn’t dislike the change and thinks it’s easier now that her farm doesn’t have to focus on producing so much produce. Teeter’s booth used to sell vegetables like potatoes, tomatoes, squash and large pumpkins. Now they sell apple cider, grapes and mini pumpkins.

Beyond food and art, other organizations promoted their cause to the Ithaca and Tompkins community in stands interspersed throughout The Commons.

Cornell Cooperative Extension, which aims to educate the public about sustainability, displayed their solar panels. In the theme of Apple Fest, they demonstrated solar energy by blending apples into apple juice.

“Apple Fest is the time where the community comes together and are out here and excited to talk to each other,” said Annalise Kukor, the cooperative’s energy educator.

Apple Fest attracts people young and old looking for food, art, and time with the community. Ithacan resident Alla Vardi has brought her three year old daughter to Apple Fest every year. Vardi gravitates towards the booths selling art and other non-food items.

“Apple Fest brings awareness to the handmade,” Vardi told The Sun. “Although the first thing [to do] is to get food.”