The 32nd Apple Festival recently took place Oct. 9-10, and as usual, the annual festival was successful in attracting thousands of people to the village of Oak Harbor.
The event, which is sponsored by a multitude of local businesses and attracts approximately 30,000 people, takes place the second full weekend in October every year.
The festival, like any other small town event, entices people to return home for a weekend, giving them the chance to connect with old friends and acquaintances they’ve not seen for some time.
“It’s a tradition that seems to catch everyone’s attention,” said Derek Gerber, a 26-year old Columbus resident who grew up in Oak Harbor. “It brings everyone back. I know that when I go home I’m going to see a lot of my friends.”
The two-day event, which closes off several blocks of the downtown area, begins at 9 a.m. on Saturday and ends at just after 6 p.m. on Sunday. The festival features a wide variety of events, including the 5K Apple Run, a car show, the Grand Parade and entertainment from local groups.
The Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce organizes the event, coordinating the planning needed to make the event run smoothly. Planning kicks into high gear in late August when a board of 12 elected members, all of them volunteers, begins meeting weekly to begin preparation.
|Jeremiah Hill, right, and his brother Micah, enjoy some food at the
aanual Oak Harbor Fest. The festival included a 5K run, clowns, local
performers, a lasic car show, and a parade. (Press photo by Ken
“It’s really a collaborative effort between the village — we work closely with the property owners, the sponsors, everybody,” said Valerie Winterfield, the executive director of the chamber. “Everybody has to work together.”
Dorothy Heiks came up with the idea for the festival in 1978 with the thinking that the Apple Festival would be a good way for Oak Harbor to showcase itself. Then the director of the chamber, she was responsible for planning the event, which she did during the festival’s early years. Today, a Dorothy Heiks Award is given to a business or an individual every year at the festival in honor of that person’s dedication to the community.
As is the case with major undertakings, there are sacrifices to be made. In the community, sacrifices are made to help make the event what it is.
In fact, because of the large presence of vendors at the event, the vast majority of local businesses suffer during the weekend.
“We’re basically asking businesses to write that weekend off,” said Winterfield. “(But) they’re not opposed to the event. If people are talking about the Apple Festival, they’re talking about Oak Harbor. They know it’s for the greater good.”
The unsung heroes of the event are the volunteers.
“We wouldn’t be able to do it without the volunteers,” said Winterfield. “Every single event has one or two volunteers chairing the event. We probably have 30 to 40 people that volunteer during the weekend.”
Events like the Apple Festival help to give towns like Oak Harbor an identity, a chance to put itself of the map. A number of towns in the area have similar events — Elmore has the Autumn Festival, Oregon the German-American Festival and Port Clinton the Harvest Festival.
Aside from the food and the parade and the carnival rides, the festival has some deeper meaning to it — it is symbolic of the fact that the seasons are changing, that autumn is here, that the sun will be setting earlier and that colder weather is fast approaching.
In short, the camaraderie among the people and the tight-knit fabric of the town help to make the Apple Festival the success that it’s been for years.
“It’s just... a small town atmosphere — it’s a reason for everyone to come back home for the weekend,” said Gerber. “It’s a chance for you to catch up with everyone.”