Apple Harvest Festival to reinvent itself at new venue

Winchester Rotary Club’s 41st annual Shenandoah Valley Apple Harvest Festival will be settling into a new home this year at the Frederick County Fairgrounds. The event takes place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Festival co-chair Darla McCrary calls this year the “reinvention” year because of the new opportunities opening up at the fairgrounds venue. One important new feature about setting up at the fairgrounds is that the festival will now be pet friendly.

“We have had a great number of wonderful years at Jim Barnett Park … but moving out to the fairground allowed us for all of these activities that we couldn’t do in the park,” she said. “The fairgrounds association have been wonderful; they have been very accommodating of us this year.”

McCrary said the variety of new options will draw in groups of people the festival hasn’t seen in years past. She estimated that the average attendance numbers of 2,000 to 3,000 per day in the past will increase this year by 20 to 30 percent at the new venue.

To take a break from perusing the craftsmen tables and food options, attendees will be able to relax and enjoy constant entertainment from a longer list of performers.

“We probably have put more into the budget for music than we have in other years,” McCrary said.

Performances will come from area artists like Torn, The Judy Chops, Clay Arthur and Fleming, Fleming & Peterson.

The fairgrounds will also serve to host a car and truck show during the festival. Any driver who enters for the $10 fee will automatically win a goodie bag and the top 12 cars in the show will win prizes.

True to the name, the festival will celebrate the apple in more ways than one. Other contests will include an apple pie baking contest on Saturday with first and second place cash prizes in both student and adult categories, and an apple pie eating contest at 2 p.m. Sunday.

Hard cider will be up for sampling along with craft brews and wines from local wineries at the Whitacre Building, and there’ll be plenty of opportunities for kid’s entertainment in a kid’s zone.

Around 100 crafters will be able to set up their tables and booths in a new indoor craft room, something McCrary said was welcome news to those looking to sell their handgrown and handmade crafts.

The Rotary Club aims to meet a landmark $1 million in proceeds going to local charities this year. It has aised $950,000 so far from previous years’ festivals, and McCrary said they hope to raise the remaining $50,000 this year in admissions.

“I bet it takes a good three quarters of the club to put this on and nobody gets a penny – we’re all volunteers so everything we’ve made goes back to the community,” she said.

General admission to the festival is $5, admission for adults 65 and older is $4 and $3 for children ages 6 to 13. Children younger than 6 will be admitted free, and the event is typically held rain or shine.

Contact staff writer Rachel Mahoney at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rmahoney@nvdaily.com