'It's tradition': 42nd annual Apple Festival looks poised to set attendance record

Jonathan Roberts • Oct 6, 2019 at 12:00 AM

ERWIN — As one of the largest festivals in the Southeast, it’s no surprise the Unicoi Apple Festival draws in people from all over the region, something Brandon Hubbard-Heitz and his family can relate to.

“My wife grew up here, but we’re visiting from Chattanooga,” Hubbard-Heitz said. “This is our ninth year coming here, and it’s an annual trip.

“It’s tradition,” he added. “I feel like the Apple Festival marks the beginning of fall for us.”

And with Saturday’s high temperature in Erwin barely broaching the 70-degree mark, it’s hard to argue the second day of the Apple Festival didn’t feel like fall.

“It’s a great weekend for the festival,” Hubbard-Heitz said. “The weather’s been really pleasant, it’s not too hot, not too cold — it actually feels autumnal.”

Family, however, seemed to be the theme of the day, with strollers and children milling about all throughout downtown Erwin’s usually quiet streets.

“This is my first time here, and it’s very crowded, but it’s awesome and I love everything they’re selling,” said Lindsey Tupper, who was there with her husband and two daughters. “I love stuff like this.”

All those children and families in the streets have the Unicoi Chamber of Commerce feeling like 2019 may set a new record for attendance.

Based on “early preliminary (estimates), yes, we’re going to have a record crowd,” Unicoi Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Amanda Delp said. “Yesterday morning was one of our busier Friday mornings, and today has been just wall-to-wall people.”

And though some may prefer a less-crowded event, the potentially record numbers gave the festival a unique atmosphere, one that Sue Garland, who’s been attending the festival for 30 years, seemed to enjoy.

“It’s something the town really aspires to — with all the communities gathered together — to add things and make it more (enjoyable) for the people who come in and visit,” she said. “It’s a great thing.”