Apple Harvest fest packs flavor of fall
WINCHESTER- It doesn't come with the fanfare of the annual Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival, and that's why many people like the Apple Harvest Arts and Crafts Festival.
Held over the weekend at Jim Barnett Park, the 37th annual event sponsored by the Rotary Club of Winchester drew people looking to shop, eat and learn a thing or two about apples.
Beth Koller, 38, and her family found the fair by accident two years ago.
"We were just driving through the park and stumbled upon it," said Koller, who moved to Stephens City from Pennsylvania about 10 years ago.
She and her family are still learning about all the events the area has to offer.
Koller was sitting with her daughters Holly, 10, and Madelenn, 9, enjoying some of the festival's various delicacies.
Madelenn was still talking about the handmade glass Christmas tree ornament she purchased from a crafter.
"When you put it in the sunlight, it shines like a rainbow," Madelenn said.
Holly's favorite part - a little unsurprising since she is the big sister - was the joust, where she won against her sister.
But the family still had one more stop to make before home.
"We aren't leaving here without picking fresh apples," Koller reminded them.
At the apple exhibit, Rotary members and apple growers were telling people about the different apple varieties, many of which are grown locally.
"People are always amazed there are so many," said Gene Schultz, a Rotary member.
Some come to the festival asking for a certain type of apple that goes by a different name in Virginia, Schultz said, explaining that a Nittany apple is called a York in Virginia.
Standing alongside club members were area growers, who imparted their own wisdom.
Peter Cook, a former Clarke County orchardist, advised that when making an apple pie, don't use a single variety of apple, mix it up.
"Each apple has a different character," Cook said.
A native of Reading, England, Cook, 64, came to Virginia in 1978 to run an orchard. He left the business last year, but still has his enthusiasm.
"What we are trying to do is promote apples," Cook said. "There is a heritage."
Donna Keplinger, 47, was participating in her own tradition.
The Stephens City resident has been coming to the festival for 15 years with her family.
Keplinger's mother Catherine Combs, 70, comes for the food but often leaves with the crafts from one of the many artisans selling their wares.
"Over the years, we have supplied our house with the crafts," Combs said.
Normally, Keplinger's twin daughters join the group, but both had to work this year.
They did, however, request Keplinger bring back some cinnamon roasted almonds. Unfortunately, they weren't on sale.
"The worst thing is they'll say that she (Keplinger) didn't check," Combs said, sending the table into a fit of laughter.
The only thing that didn't cooperate with this year's festival was the weather. Saturday was cold and rainy, keeping attendance down.
Festival Chairman Bill Hottel said that around 5,000 people came through the gates Saturday and Sunday, bringing in about $15,000 that will be spread among local charity organizations.
The total was about $5,000 less than the year before.
"We'll try again next year," Hottel said.
- Contact Adam Van Hart at