Apple Days were a sweet success

Although I am getting older and my memories are growing fuzzier, for the life of me – year after year – I cannot think of a more enjoyable month than October.

It seems as if each year when this month rolls around we are treated with unexpected snow flurries, crisp mornings, warm afternoons and starlit nights that need to be viewed from underneath a fleece blanket. We try to hold off winter, like an excited dog at the front door, because before we know it that first bitter cold snap arrives in November.

We witnessed one of these glorious October days Sunday at the Fifth Annual Homegrown Apple Days Festival in Buckley Park. By early afternoon, it was warm enough for kids to be bobbing for apples; however, once you moved into the shade of the trees, you wished for one more layer of clothing.

Apple Days has become much more than “the last festival before Snowdown.” We (and by “we” I mean The Growing Partners of Southwest Colorado, dozens of volunteers, vendors, donors of apples to be harvested and local food leaders like Katy Pepinsky, Erin Jolley and Gabe Eggers) have created, at least in my mind, the simplest of family festivals.

On Sunday, I took time during lunch (a Sunnyside Meats bratwurst in hand) and watched my kids in Buckley Park (no, they didn’t know that I was watching them, because if they did I would be $10 poorer, and the kids would still be pulling caramel out of their teeth) having a blast with all their friends. They made apple necklaces, got their face painted, learned about the different parts of the apple tree, participated in potato sack races, and Elena even held her own in the pie-eating contest.

OK, so maybe all these things took hours, but you get the idea. How often can you have a day, especially as a parent or grandparent, where you can just let the kids be kids? No screens and no video games. All they really need is a makeshift cardboard sled, an apple press, a potato sack or a caramel apple, and five hours later they are pleading with you to stay just a little bit longer.

This is what community is about, and this is what local is about. The day before, we harvested about 2,500 pounds of apples from area trees. The farthest any apple traveled was about 60 miles, and those were the ones for purchase coming from the Colorado State University Research Station’s orchard in Yellow Jacket. The rest, which was made into cider, all came from the Durango area. The food (the glorious food!) from the vendors – folks like Zia Taqueria, 4-H, Turtle Lake Refuge and The Garden Project – also showcased locally grown and produced offerings on their menus.

In its truest form, this was a celebration. For one last day, we held the dreary early days of winter by the collar. And as the political rhetoric reaches its climax, it feels good to just take a day and forget about it all – except why your son felt the need to submerge his whole body in water to get that one apple or why can’t your daughter devour potatoes like she can an apple pie. or 382-6464. Darrin Parmenter is director and horticulture agent of the La Plata County Extension Office.

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