Ming DeMers/Sun Staff Photographer

Members of the Ithaca community flocked to the Ithaca Commons this weekend for the Apple Harvest Festival, which featured local vendors and live performances.

October 3, 2022

Fortieth Annual Apple Harvest Festival Commences Cider Week New York

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The 40th annual Apple Harvest Festival, hosted by the Downtown Ithaca Alliance, kicked off Cider Week New York this weekend. 

Held from Sept. 30 to Oct. 2, the festival featured fresh produce, baked goods, ciders, a variety of food trucks and artisanal craft stands. Local performers and bands provided live entertainment on Saturday and Sunday, accompanied by carnival rides and themed games. 

Gary Ferguson, executive director of DIA, explained that the Apple Harvest Festival is the organization’s biggest community event of the year and that they expected between 70,000 and 75,000 people to attend over the course of the weekend. 

“We work on planning the event all year … starting in early spring when we send out information to vendors about participating in it,” Ferguson said. “As we get closer and closer, we’re booking the bands and the activities and beginning to work on all the specific details.”

Planning for the event included outlining its budget. Ferguson explained that the cost of hosting such a large event is substantial, but the revenue from the Apple Harvest Fest actually makes enough money to fund future events as well.

“Some of our events make money and some of them do not, but we just love having people come down and check out downtown,” Ferguson said. “And for this particular one, many of our businesses do very well. They have specials and plan around this because it is such a big downtown event.”

This year, the festival featured over 50 vendors — primarily cider houses, wineries, restaurants and crafters. 

In attendance was Littletree Orchards, a family orchard based in Newfield, that has been at every Apple Harvest Fest since the first one in 1982. Littletree Orchards sold a variety of their apple products at the festival, including apple cider vinegar, apple butter, apple chips and fresh apples. Most popular proved to be their fresh donuts, whose piping hot scent attracted a steady stream of customers throughout the day. 

Littletree’s manager Amara Steinkraus inherited the farm from her mother and cherishes innumerable memories of Apple Harvest Fest from her childhood. As a child, her favorite part of the festival was listening to the music and scampering around the Ithaca Commons. Currently, Steinkraus favors the community spirit and emphasis on local agriculture, artisans and food. 

“I love that there is a good showcasing of local agriculture doing various kinds of value-added products, a lot of which is about apples, and it’s really cool to see the diversity,” Steinkraus said. 

Also at the festival was Steve Daughhetee, co-owner of New York Cider Company and a former Cornell graduate student. 

Daughhetee has been selling cider since 2017, specializing in dry, hard ciders as opposed to sweet ciders. This was his second year at Apple Harvest Fest — he mostly focuses selling in farmers markets in Ithaca and Long Island. 

Daughhetee cultivated his passion for cider while pursuing a Ph.D. at Cornell. 

“I moved here from California and realized I was in apple country. A friend of mine told me, ‘Hey, you know there are these places that will press your apples. You can just bring them in there, pay a fee, and they will press it for you,’” Daughhetee said. “So we picked a bunch of fruit and took it down there and had it pressed, and it made great cider. And I’ve just been doing it ever since.”

The Society for Horticulture, an organization for Cornell horticulture graduate students also known as SoHo, was also selling cider, albeit non-alcoholic. 

The apples used to make the cider being sold were grown on the Cornell Orchards. SoHo members worked to harvest and sort the varieties in preparation for the festival. 

Manu Shi grad and Bethany Schulteis grad volunteered at the booth on Friday, selling a variety of apples to festival-goers. 

“I like the outreach part of events like this because I get to teach people about apples and what we’re doing at Cornell and what we’re working on,” Schulteis said.

Shi explained that some of the apples were “research apples,” meaning they are subjects of projects facilitated through Cornell Orchards. Objectives of these projects include working to develop fruit production systems and extending apples’ storage lives.

Students from Ithaca College also participated in the festival, including Via Carpenter, who made her debut selling cookies this year.

Carpenter, who graduated from Ithaca College in May, sold a variety of flavors, such as caramel apple pie, snickerdoodle and lemon white chocolate chip. In addition, she donates 5 percent of her profits to BIPOC and LGBTQ+ students. 

“I found myself in Ithaca and realized I wanted to be more involved in giving back to students, specifically students of color and students who are part of the LGBTQ+ community,” Carpenter said. “As someone who is a part of both of those, I’ve seen a lot of struggle within the schooling systems, especially when it comes to financing.”

Carpenter sells her cookies in GreenStar, Ithaca Bakery and other retail stores and in the cafe located inside Autumn Leaves Used Bookstore on Saturdays. Her self-run business has appeared at other local festivals, such as Ithaca Festival and the vendor fair during PRIDE Week 2022

With a multitude of different food offerings, artisintial crafts, live entertainment and plenty of apples, organizers, vendors and attendees alike expressed enjoyment at the Apple Harvest Festival 2022. 

“The next event that’s gonna be happening is that [DIA] is gonna have some great holiday things coming up in early December, so I encourage people to check that out when it happens,” Ferguson said.