An apple pie part of last year's Ithaca Applefest. Photo courtesy of the DIA

Editor’s Note: We’re running competing columns today about the virtues of downtown Ithaca’s Applefest, which begins on Friday.

See the counterpoint, “Why I’m dreading Applefest’,” and vote in the poll below.

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ITHACA, N.Y. — Ithaca Voice reporter Jolene Almendarez doesn’t like apples, and is in fact publicly dreading the sights, smells and tastes of this weekend’s Applefest in downtown Ithaca.

I have two reactions to this unwelcome piece of news:

Photo posted during last year’s Applefest by Allen Ward of PocketSights
Photo posted during last year’s Applefest by Allen Ward of PocketSights

1 — I suppose this is what the Ithaca Voice gets for hiring someone who grew up in Texas. (Note to self: Never again!)

2 — Jolene is a great reporter and writer, but she’s surprisingly poor at recognizing the culinary merits of her adoptive state. If the exquisite apples of upstate New York don’t satisfy her palette, what would?

Jolene points out that it’s unpleasant to watch her boorish editor spew apple juice all over the office with bites of a Red Delicious. Point taken.

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But I’m still surprised by her scorn for Applefest. I’m in part surprised because Jolene is the biggest Harry Potter fan I know — her encyclopedic knowledge of J.K. Rowling’s characters and plot-lines is rivaled only by her Harry Potter wardrobe, which includes Slytherin t-shirts and a wizarding cape.

And Applefest has always struck me as being straight from HogsmeadeThere’s the huddling groups of students, thankful for the brief escape from Cornell/Hogwarts. There’s the quaint local shops — couldn’t you see “Madam Puddifoot’s Tea Shop” on the Commons?

Above all, there’s the weather: that slowly-turning fall and brilliantly changing leaves that conjure Great Britain far better than a southern desert ever could.

But forget the Harry Potter comparisons.

Applefest is, simply put, the best of downtown Ithaca’s various festivals.

“Chilifest” is just about one dish that doesn’t lend itself to spin-off desserts and drinks. (There’s a reason nobody sells “chili cider” or “chili cake.” That sounds gross.) And the concurrent Winter Festival is a nice idea. But it routinely incurs the risk of frost bite, and seems to last about 15 minutes every year.

An apple pie part of last year’s Ithaca Applefest. Photo courtesy of the DIA
An apple pie part of last year’s Ithaca Applefest. Photo courtesy of the DIA

Oktoberfest, meanwhile, mostly seems like an excuse to get drunk and drink craft beers. We have enough of those; they’re called “weekends.”

I’ll admit that Porchfest and the Ithaca Festival are close runners-up for my affections. But my heart, like my gut, is firmly allied with the fruits of my state — the tart red Empire; the shimmering Ginger Gold; and the sweet, juicy red Fuji … and whatever apple I can sink my teeth in, regardless of where its juices may fly.

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Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.