Hendersonville holds its annual Apple Festival on Labor Day weekend each year. Booths line both sides of Main Street, which is closed to vehicle traffic, and it’s open season on all things apple-related: apple crafts, apple foods, apple gadgets, and lots and lots and lots of apples.
We went last night, and it was practically perfect, from the weather to the not-impossible-to-navigate crowds. The Buddy-K Big Band (http://www.buddykband.com/) was swinging in front of the gold-domed courthouse; a hit-or-miss engine was cycling and popping as it pulled the crank for homemade ice cream; the evening air was redolent with ubiquitous festival smell of fried peppers-and-onions. I opted for hand-cut french fries drizzled with salt and vinegar, then shared a fried apple pie a la mode (vanilla ice cream courtesy of the hit-or-miss engine, of course).
It’s a friendly festival, and very family-oriented. None of the booths sell alcohol, and everything closes fairly early. Small-ish town America at its finest, and a very different experience than the festivals in Asheville. (More Mayberry, less Haight-Ashbury, you might say.)
We rounded out our evening with a stop at one of the many tents selling locally grown apples (Hendersonville is famous for its apples, by the way). We stuffed a half-bushel bag with every available variety from Mutsu and Empire to Jonagold, Honeycrisp, Gingergold, Cortland, and Red Delicious. The bag weighed a ton; it was like carrying a sleeping three-year-old back to the car.
Are there more exciting festivals in the Southeast? Probably, but not many that are sweeter–in every sense of the word.