Unicoi County held its 33rd annual Apple Festival in Erwin, Tenn., last weekend.I am a big fan of apples, so I was more than excited when my friend Christina offered for me to go to the festival. We rushed to leave for Erwin at 7:30 a.m.
We soon discovered that was the right decision since the streets of downtown Erwin were packed with hundreds of visitors a few hours later.
On a balmy autumn day, the festival showcased a wide variety of homemade food and crafts as well as musical entertainment by local groups. I had a wonderful time enjoying free samples of delicious food and looking around at interesting crafts.
However, I couldn’t get away from a skeptical thought about the point of the festival. The festival’s theme ‘apple’ seemed to be in the name only. I barely saw apple-related foods or events. They had goods such as beauty products or Christmas and Halloween decorations, prominently on display.
The festival actually reminded me more of a “Jang”, a traditional local fair in Korea where farmers bring and sell their freshly harvested fruits and vegetables.
It is now internationally accepted that a well-coordinated local festival can revive the local economy. La Tomatina, the world famous tomato festival in Spain, has become the primary income source of the 9,000 people in the community. It attracts more than 40,000 tourists annually.
The Erwin Apple Festival is one of the largest festivals in the Southeast, drawing more than 100,000 attendees every year.
During the day, I saw the Apple Festival’s potential for expansion into the national, perhaps even international, level, but the festival’s concept will have to be enhanced.
For an easy start, the food carts could develop apple special menus instead of common dishes like burgers and fries. The apple theme can also be strengthened by implementing some creative events like the tomato fights of La Tomatina.