Tompkins County’s iteration of the time-honored Upstate New York fall tradition, the Ithaca Apple Harvest Festival, will open this Friday in Downtown Ithaca at noon and continue until Sunday, Sept. 29.
The three-day festival celebrates one of upstate New York’s most iconic and valuable agricultural exports — trailing only Washington in production, the state produces 30 million bushels of apples annually, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.
“The idea is to help share the story and the strong, rich agriculture economy that we have in the county and the greater Finger Lakes. With apples being the prime crop in New York State, we are in the prime apple region,” Allison Graffin, marketing director of the Downtown Ithaca Alliance, told the Ithaca Times. “The real goal has been to get back to the roots to share with people coming in why this festival and why apples are so important to our region.”
Started in 1982, the 37-year-old event, which is free to attend, will include a wide variety of musical showings, artist demonstrations and local vendors.
Over 20 local farmers will have stalls centered on the Commons and surrounding streets, selling products and ingredients sourced from Ithaca’s hinterlands, notably including at least five apple donut vendors — long one of the festival’s most popular seasonal treats. Dozens of other established area restaurants and popular Farmer’s Market staples will also be stationed at the festival.
A lineup of area musical acts will perform regularly throughout the festival at the Bernie Milton Pavillion and at a West State Street location.
At least 10 cider makers hailing from the upstate area will host a series of four separate, paid tastings throughout the day on Saturday. For fans of the boozy apple-based beverage, Ithaca restaurants will also stage a “Cider Trail,” offering special cocktails and deals throughout the weekend.
In addition, on September 28, the First People’s Festival will take place concurrently at nearby Dewitt Park from 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. The event, hosted by Ithaca’s Multicultural Resource Center, will highlight Upstate New York’s Native Americans through a variety of cultural demonstrations, craft vendors and workshops.
Long a fall favorite among residents, Cornell students also expressed excitement at the chance to attend the downtown events.
“Going to Apple Fest my freshman year introduced me to Ithaca Commons and was one of the many vibrant community events I attended there,” Weston Barker ’21 told The Sun. “Ithaca is more than just the Cornell campus, so if you’re looking to broaden your horizons, and palate, it’s something I highly recommend.”