ITHACA, N.Y. — Ithaca’s annual Apple Harvest Festival returns for a 37th year this weekend with more events centered on what’s at the core of the festival, local agriculture.
Every year, the fall festival draws thousands of people — upwards of 40,000 according to past estimates — to Downtown Ithaca to celebrate all things apple. Visitors can sift through baskets of different varieties, from tangy Northern Spy to Cornell’s variety Autumn Crisp, sample hard and fresh cider, and of course, enjoy plenty of baked and fried treats for sale, like apple crisp, pie, and doughnuts.
The festival will take place Friday through Sunday on the Ithaca Commons and on nearby Cayuga and West State/MLK Jr. streets.
New York is the second-largest apple producing state in the country, and the industry employs thousands of people at all levels of production, according to the New York Apple Association. More than ever this year, the festival will celebrate Tompkins County’s part in the industry. Organizers say the festival is a “coming back” to what’s at the heart of the festival, apples and local producers.
“I think the goal is to really get back to what the point of the festival is, to celebrate the apple and cider industry here … and really focus on this product that has a huge impact to our economy and celebrate that,” said Allison Graffin, marketing director at the Downtown Ithaca Alliance.
This year’s Apple Harvest Festival schedule is packed with more than 100 local craft, food and beverage vendors, entertainment, games, music and affiliated events. The festival will take place on the Ithaca Commons, as well as Cayuga Street from Green Street to Buffalo Street, and on West State Street from the Commons to Geneva Street.
Below are some things we recommend checking out at the 37th Annual Apple Harvest Festival.
1 — First Peoples’ Festival in Dewitt Park: Building awareness and consciousness around indigenous rights, sovereignty and culture
While you are downtown, don’t miss the annual First Peoples’ Festival taking place from 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Saturday in Dewitt Park.
Hosted by the Multicultural Resource Center, the festival honors the history and culture of first peoples and highlights indigenous issues from an indigenous perspective. This year has a theme – the International Year of Indigenous Languages, which will showcase the diversity of indigenous languages that exist in Tompkins County.
2 — New Farmers Showcase: Appreciate where your food comes from
A new feature this year is the Farmers Showcase, which will take place from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday in Press Bay Alley and Press Bay Court. Visitors will have a chance to learn more about local agriculture in Ithaca and Tompkins County by meeting farmers from 17 farms Saturday, and 10 Sunday. Learn more about the process behind the produce, learn how honey is made and maple is tapped. And, you can pet baby animals.
Allison Graffin, marketing director for Downtown Ithaca Alliance said the Farmers Showcase is less about selling their products and more about showing what they do. It’s an educational opportunity to see farmers from across the county in one place.
Special Events Director Scott Rougeau added, “It’s just a reminder, too, that a lot of these farms are just right in our backyard. They’re a 10-, 15-minute drive down the road, so they’re there year-round. You don’t have to just celebrate them at harvest season.”
The Farmers Showcase will take place from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Learn more here.
3 — Pick up a Cider Trail Passport
This year’s festival will feature a Cider Trail all weekend that will bring people inside local shops and restaurants downtown. Participating businesses will be offering ciders by the glass, tastings, pairings and cider cocktails. You can pick up a passport at the festival info booth throughout the weekend and inside the Downtown Visitor Center inside the Tompkins Center for History and Culture on the Commons. There is no purchase necessary, and people who turn in their passports will be entered into a raffle.
While there are dozens of vendors to shop from this weekend, the passport is a chance for people to celebrate and explore the businesses that are downtown all year.
You can find the map online on the Downtown Ithaca Alliance Apple Harvest Festival page by Tuesday evening, which will have more details on how to enter and who is participating.
4 — Get an in-depth look at the industry with cider makers and movers
There are several events this week and weekend that will pair delicious local cider and food with informative discussions with the makers and experts in the industry. The first event is “Not Far From the Tree – An Evening Celebrating Apples & Cider“ on Thursday at Coltivare. It will include talks with cider experts like Steve Selin from South Hill Cider, Autumn Stoscheck of Eve’s Cidery, and Meredith Collins, the blogger behind Along Came A Cider. The cider will be paired with special dishes prepared by Coltivare, like pesto quiche, candied bacon, and Coltivare’s famous Apple mac n’ cheese with smoked gouda bechamel, New York apples, caramelized onions and apple butter. The event is $50 per person and will take place from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 26, at Coltivare, 235 S. Cayuga St., Ithaca.
Is there a better fall pairing than books and cider? Buffalo Street Books will be hosting a talk with Jason Wilson, the author of “The Cider Revival, Dispatches from the Orchard” and Meredith Collins, who has been tasting and reviewing hard cider for six years on her blog Along Came A Cider. Along with the talk, attendees can taste cider from Grisamore Cider Works.
“Monks and Makers” returns this year with 60-minute intimate tasting sessions. Attendees will get to engage with a number of local cider makers and enjoy some light snacks. There are four time slots available from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Sunday at Monks on The Commons, 120 S. Aurora St., Ithaca (attached to the Marriott). It’s $10 to attend and people are encouraged to RSVP ahead of time, as there will be limited walk-up tickets.
5 — Catch some incredible performances on the Ithaca Commons and beyond
Saturday and Sunday are packed with live music and performances at the Bernie Milton Pavilion and West State Street. Performances begin at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Bernie Milton Pavilion and continue until 6 p.m. At West State Street, the performances kick off at noon with Mark the Zani. On Sunday, performances begin at 10 a.m. with Flight Performing Arts at the Bernie Milton Pavilion, and over on West State Street, performances begin at noon. Check out the full schedule here.
Looking for some comedy? Called Ithaca’s “cutest, and most entertaining couple,” Kenneth and SingTrece McLaurin will merge music, song, storytelling and comedy in “Singing Notes & Slinging Jokes.” The show will take place from 7 to 9 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 28, at the Hilton Garden Inn Ithaca, 130 E. Seneca St., Ithaca. You can find tickets here.
The 2019 Finger Lakes Comedy Festival is also taking place this weekend in Ithaca and Romulus. It will feature stand-up comedy shows Sept. 27 and 28. See a full schedule here.
And on Sunday, the world-famous Zuzu Acrobats will present African Cirque Spectacular at the State Theatre of Ithaca. The doors open at 6 p.m. and the show begins at 7 p.m. People of all ages will enjoy this performance direct from Mombassa, Kenya, that is “an electrical experience of African tradition.” Tickets are $5 to $6 and available here.
Check out the Downtown Ithaca Alliance’s website for more details on events.
Where to park? The Green, Seneca and Cayuga street garages are all close to the festival and will have a flat fee of $5 all day. There is also limited street parking that is free Saturday and Sunday. If you would rather take the bus, here’s a link to schedules.
Browse and download the event map below:
Featured image: Sarah Resman/Ithaca Voice