I have distinct memories of our Weaver’s Orchard festivals from when I was young, pieced together from the sights, sounds and smells. If I walk outside on a crisp fall Friday evening, I can feel the anticipation of the festival to come the following morning. As the sun fades, my brain wants me to run up and help with the final set up for the apple festival (in my mind, it was all hands on deck – whether or not they actually needed my small hands, I can’t tell you, but I was certainly excited to help!).
I can hear the crunch of the potatoes as I helped slice them for freshly made fries. Excitement bubbles up as I close my eyes and remember crawling through the hay tunnels – the pitch-black tunnels, the way they used to be in the days before the (necessary) safety regulations. And then, of course, I feel the itch of my irritated skin from crawling through straw for hours on end. But I taste the sweet-tart of a caramel apple and forget the itchiness. And on to watch the cider press in action. Never mind that I saw it many times before – I could sit and watch the process from beginning to end (and still find it very satisfying to this day to watch the layers of chopped apple pile up in the burlap and then be pressed to squeeze out every last drop of that sweet nectar!).
Now, in 2019, our Fall Family Fun Days occur every Saturday for nearly two months (and also on Columbus Day), but when I was young, for years we only had one fall festival, which made the anticipation even greater! Although, for my 2, 4, and 6-year-old boys, attending the festival events every Saturday hasn’t seemed to lessen the excitement. They are pulling me out the door to be at the festival entrance at 10:00 am sharp every Saturday!
As I grew up, fall festivals gradually grew in frequency and activities offered. I had the privilege to be part of them each year, from helping as I could in the food shed or with some of the rides, then into the farm market as I grew – assisting customers in finding that perfect apple for their eating or baking preferences, making caramel apples until the blisters turned into callouses, or working at the register as the many different beautiful fall apples, pears, pumpkins and gourds come through the line, ready to grace a porch or home with some autumn beauty. To this day, I love the opportunity to work on a festival day.
It is such a sweet thing to remember treasured childhood activities and relive them through your own child’s eyes. We love to enjoy the festivals together with our Weaver cousins, and others, just as I enjoyed it with my cousins years ago. They love the balloon animals and face painting as much as I did. The barrel train is a must each festival. Riding the hayride driven by their own daddy or with Grandpa Ed Weaver as a guide gives them such pride it shows on their faces. The fresh-cut fries and caramel apples are a favorite classic treat, but now they also love the apple fries and apple cider donuts, of course!
Their absolute favorite festival activities were not even in existence when I was a child – my 6-year-old has now mastered hitting the target with the apple cannon on the first shot in order to earn his free apple cider donut. All three love digging in the corn kernel bins. We follow up this activity with lunch, or else we would never be able to leave without a scene from the 2-year-old. We make several stops to pet the fluffy alpacas in between activities. And a day isn’t complete without several stops at the newest attraction: the rubber ducky races!
While the number of events, guests and activities has all grown and changed, I believe the essence of the fall festival will never change. There is just something refreshing about the crisp air and apples after many hot summer days. We hope you and your family can come out and join us for the apples, pumpkins, fun, food, and music! And I hope and pray that one day my children will bring their own children to a festival here at the orchard, and I’ll see their sweet, caramel-covered faces smiling with delight, as they turn that little steering wheel on the barrel train.