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53rd National Apple Harvest Festival coming soon

(9/22) The National Apple Harvest Festival is celebrating its 53rd old-fashioned family event in October over the weekends of the 7 & 8 and the 14 & 15, at The South Mountain Fairgrounds, Biglerville, in the heart of Apple Country USA. The event is held all four fun-filled days from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. rain or shine. October, proclaimed National Apple Month, is when the Upper Adams County community celebrates apple season with an apple festival.

The festival’s roots date back to October 14, 1961, when The Adams County Fruit Growers Association held an Apple Harvest Holiday to celebrate the apple harvest. After the fruit growers decided not to run the holiday again, The Upper Adams Jaycees—a new chapter in need of a fundraiser—organized and sponsored the very first Apple Harvest Festival on Sunday, October 10, 1965. Admission was free. The Jaycees earned a profit of $297 that first year and voted to try it again.

In 1967, the event went from one day to three days. Saturday’s admission was $.25 and Sunday’s was $.50. The first Apple Harvest Ball was held in 1968 at the Holiday-Inn Gettysburg. In 1969, the first Miss Apple Queen USA Contest was selected at the ball held in conjunction with the festival. The tours of the processing and fruit packing plants, that were proven crowd pleasers, were discontinued in 1970 because the plants could no longer handle the crowds.

The festival’s 10th Anniversary was held in 1974 and had become so popular that all the cars could no longer be parked on the South Mountain Fairgrounds. And, with the profits from the festival, the Jaycees voted to build a community park. Then in 1975, it became a two-weekend event and is always held the first two full weekends in October. The name was changed to the National Apple Harvest Festival in 1977 in honor of the National Apple Queen Contest it sponsored from 1969 to 1986.

Two times during the past 52 festivals, it has been closed for a day due to flooding. In 1976, Hurricane Eloise caused the lower half of the fairgrounds to be under a foot of water. And, again, in 1990, the second Saturday had to be canceled due to a flood.

What would an apple festival be without apple-delicious products? Apple bread, an apple butter boil, a cold cider press, cider slushies, hot cider, apple desserts, daiquiris (nonalcoholic), fritters, jellies, pizza, sausage, sauce, candied, apple syrups and pancakes, sliced caramel apples, apple ice cream, and fresh Adams County apples can be found here, there, and everywhere as one strolls the grounds. Besides Apples, there are various other delicious foods available. As you step onto the fairgrounds, smell chicken barbecuing, the pit beef and pulled pork, sweet potato and regular French fries, homemade soups and sandwiches, homemade scrapple, and "fair" food.

With Admission, Entertainment Is Included on six stages—Apple Auditorium, Appleseed, Bluegrass Hollow, Cider Barrel, Cortland Circle, and Rockin’ Apple--with music of all genres included—Bluegrass, Country, Rock and Roll, and Celtic. In the Exhibition Area view the Native American Dancers and listen and learn at Van Wagner’s Tall Timber "Lumber Heritage" Program.

Take a hayride, stop at Kid Country—storytelling, apple pie eating contests, and a petting zoo. Rest on a bus during the Orchard Tours, enjoy the craft demonstration area featuring a chainsaw carver and potter, and shop at over 200 arts and crafts vendors. Don’t miss the operating steam engine and shingle mill, listen to the hit ‘n miss engines, and enjoy the antique autos! Check out the National Apple Harvest Festival Gallery with displays of old-fashioned apple production equipment and past festival memorabilia.New this year! The Pennsylvania Apple Queen Contest will be held Sunday, October 15, at 11 a.m. with the Coronation at 2:30 p.m. in the Apple Auditorium.

The Upper Adams Community area benefits most by the community park that was begun by the Jaycees in 1975 funded from profits of the festival. The 92-acre Oakside Community Park, located outside of Biglerville on Route 394, is open to the public April 1 to November 1 each year. The park features an amphitheater, six baseball/softball fields, five rental pavilions, a catch-and-release fishing pond, a soccer complex, a dog park, a three-mile walking trail, and a covered bridge. In 1989, the Jaycees built an office complex at the entrance to the park that houses offices for Oakside Community Park, The National Apple Harvest Festival, and The Upper Adams Jaycees.

The Upper Adams Jaycees use profits from the festival for all types of community, member and individual projects. A fifteen-member board of directors of current Jaycees and Exhausted Jaycees (no longer can be a member of the organization when they turn 40) guide the festival each year. The board meets every month and is responsible for improvements to the festival such as purchasing a shingle mill and the construction of two buildings. Two Jaycees are the chairman and cochairman who work with 50 committees to make certain that each minute detail is handled.

This year there are about 60 groups that either have concessions at the festival or work at Upper Adams Jaycees’ stand. These include Lions, Jaycees, 4-H, high school bands or sports organizations, churches, Republican and Democrat Committees, Boy Scouts, Multiple Sclerosis, fire companies, and wineries.

For more information including the full four-day schedule, food vendors, and to buy tickets online, visit or call 717-677-9413. General admission is $10, $9 for Senior Citizens 60 and older, $9 for Military and Veterans with proper ID, and free for children under 12. Parking and shuttle services are included. Please keep all pets at home as they are not allowed on festival grounds.

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