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Sweet Family Fun

Take a bite of apple festivals across Kentucky

Photo by Tim Webb
Photo by Tim Webb
Photo by Tim Webb
Photo: Trimble County Apple Festival
Photo by Meghan Cain-Davis
Photo: Tim Webb

From the western coalfields to the Cumberland Plateau, apple festival season is in full swing. You can eat a piece of the world’s largest apple pie, compete in a cider relay race or watch an apple-themed parade, depending on the unique flavor of the festival. But all celebrate local cuisine, artisans and a sense of community.

Trimble County Apple Festival

On the first weekend in September (September 7-8 this year), more than 9,000 people flock to the Trimble County Apple Festival at the courthouse square in Bedford. Celebrating its 29th year, the festival has become a huge fundraiser and recently obtained its nonprofit status.

“It gives an opportunity for local groups to raise money for their own causes, and at the end of the year, we give all the festival profits back to the community through grants to local organizations,” says Lisa Hatfield, Trimble County Apple Festival president and Shelby Energy Cooperative consumer-member. 

Activities at the festival include favorites like an apple cider relay race, an apple pie contest with entries auctioned, a beauty pageant crowning Ms. Golden Apple and live music featuring local artists. There are also food booths that include barbecue, apple dumplings and funnel cake; and over 85 local arts and crafts booths showcase local talent. 

“Visitors can expect a great time. This is a very kid-friendly festival that reminds me of an old-fashioned, country festival,” Hatfield says.

This year, the festival is adding two new activities: an outdoor movie night at sunset on Saturday and blacksmithing demonstrations by Cool Creek Forge on Saturday and Sunday.

“Seeing how the community comes together and to see the smiles on everyone’s faces is my favorite,” Hatfield says. “It is always a good time. I just love it.”

Casey County Apple Festival

Want to sink your teeth into a 10-foot apple pie, pizza or chocolate chip cookie for free? The Casey County Apple Festival in downtown Liberty can satisfy your craving.

A forklift hoists the treats in and out of a specially made pie pan and oven while festival attendees watch. The apple pie, which is made from 55 bushels of apples, is sliced and handed out to visitors at noon September 28, the last day of the three-day event that begins September 26. This year the festival, which usually draws a crowd of 50,000 to 75,000, is celebrating its 45th anniversary.

“This is a fun, family event that offers a lot of things to its visitors, like the world’s largest apple pie,” says Deva Hair, who chairs the Casey County Apple Festival Board. “You can spend the day sitting back, listening to music and eating good food.”

Photo by Tim Webb

The big music acts this year include Brad Harding and Tyler Stevens. Stevens will be on the main stage 8-10 p.m. September 28.

Festivalgoers can rummage through the flea market, explore the many arts and crafts and commercial booths, and chow down on food offerings like funnel cake, pork burgers, ribbon fries and Greek gyros. The parade is at 6 p.m. September 27, and on September 28, children can participate in the Greasy Pig Roundup, where the winner takes home the greasy pig he or she chased.

“The festival is like a homecoming event. People plan their vacations around it,” Hair says. “It has become so successful based on the fact that it is so family-oriented.”

Kentucky Apple Festival

Not only does the Kentucky Apple Festival hold the title of being Kentucky’s apple festival, it is the oldest apple festival in the state. It even has trademarked and copyrighted its name. 

Ray Tosti, chairman of the festival for 31 years, says the Kentucky Apple Festival in Paintsville began as a small, local event where a downtown bank gave free apples to customers. So many people participated, the event moved to the streets and included an apple auction. Now, it draws a crowd of 20,000 to 30,000 from all over the world. Tosti says people from 48 U.S. states and six countries have visited the downtown festival.

“We take pride in our city and our festival,” Tosti says.

The festival is October 4–5 and gives local organizations an opportunity to make money for the year, with cooking being one of the major ways. Apple-specific treats sold include apple stack cakes and apple butter, pies and turnovers.

“The food is all homemade by people who have cooked food all their life,” Tosti says. “Because it’s all homemade, you can get some good food.

With over 300 feet of canvas tent space, arts and crafts booths line two streets. The festival hosts the Turtle Trot and Ducky Races, a car show, carnival rides, parade and free concerts in the courtyard downtown. 

“You come home Kentucky Apple Festival weekend,” Tosti says. “It’s like a giant reunion for everyone.”

Reid’s Orchard Apple Festival

Reid’s Orchard Apple Festival is the apple festival that almost wasn’t. Kathy Reid says she and her husband, Reid’s Orchard owner Billy Reid, wanted to create a festival to give back to their community, promote togetherness and educate people about local produce. It was going to be named after the pumpkin, but with one week before the first festival, the Reids, Kenergy Corp. consumer-members, decided to change the name to Apple Festival because that’s what the orchard is all about. It’s been the name ever since.

“I’m glad we did,” Kathy Reid says. “There are lots of other pumpkin festivals in the area, but this name distinguishes what we do and our big crop.”

Starting with around 20 craft booths, a few rides and eight food booths, the festival grew to be an Owensboro staple with more than 100 craft booths, 20 food booths and over 20 carnival rides and activities like live music, a corn maze, a petting zoo and horse rides. This year’s fest is October 19–20.

Last year, the festival sold 1,200 gallons of cider, almost 16,000 pounds of apples, 3,000 caramel apple sundaes and 1,500 caramel apples. Traditional fair food is available from local organizations like Daviess County Pork Producers, which Reid says hosts one of the most popular food booths.

“We want people to come and enjoy themselves,” she says. “It’s like an old-timey, country fair. It’s a great family weekend with a little something for everyone.”

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