Apple Harvest Festival is staple of panhandle

October 13, 2005|by KRISTIN WILSON

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - The 26th annual Mountain State Apple Harvest Festival promises something for everyone this weekend as festival events spread across the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia.

Today through Sunday, Oct. 16, festival events include a grand parade, arts and crafts show, live entertainment, dancing and a fireworks display. The dozens of community, entertainment and educational events draw as many as 30,000 people during four days, says Ed Wilson, president of the apple festival board of directors.

"The main purpose of this festival is to highlight the community," Wilson says. "It is also to pay tribute to the role that the apple played in our economy and the heritage of this area."


The festival draws its inspiration from the former Apple Carnival that was celebrated in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia before World War I. That festival was dropped during the war years and wasn't reinstated until this harvest festival started in 1980.

The festival, spread through Berkeley and Jefferson counties, has grown to a four-day event, complete with celebrity events, apple educational tours, a grand ball, apple competitions and a running race.

One of the newer events is tonight's Royal Gala reception and dinner at Charles Town Races & Slots in Charles Town, W.Va. The kickoff dinner was instated last year to celebrate the 25th annual festival. Since "it proved to be extremely popular," festival organizers plan to hold the event every year, Wilson says.

For festival events, thousands of visitors will flock to the Berkeley County Youth Fairgrounds, fruit research facilities in Kearneysville, W.Va. and to businesses throughout Martinsburg, where many events take place.

Catie Wilkes is one native West Virginian who can't wait for the 26th annual festival.

Wilkes, 17, will be crowned Queen Pomona XXVI on Friday night, fulfilling one of her lifelong dreams.

"I was an apple harvest baby," says the Shepherd University freshman. She was born several hours after her mom watched the 1987 Mountain State Apple Harvest Festival parade. Participating in and attending apple harvest events were part of Wilkes' childhood, and she looks forward to sharing more information about her hometown crop.

"The apple industry here (in West Virginia) is actually ninth in the nation," Wilkes says. "It's a huge part of our community."

Wilkes will be Queen Pomona for the rest of the year and will appear in community parades and apple festival promotional events.

Additional highlights of the Mountain State Apple Harvest Festival include:

- Apple tours

Public tours are offered at research centers in Kearneysville. The West Virginia University Tree Fruit Research & Education Center and the USDA/ARS Appalachian Fruit Research Station will be open for tours today and Friday, Oct. 14.

- Gala reception

A gala reception at Charles Town Races & Slots tonight includes a guest speaker, live entertainment and a buffet dinner.

- Apple contests

Apple contests over the weekend include apple pie baking, apple arranging, best plate of apples, apple identification, apple eating and apple peeling.

- Queen Pomona XXVI

Catie Wilkes will be crowned Queen Pomona at a

6 p.m. ceremony Friday at Spring Mills Middle School in Falling Waters, W.Va.

- Music and fireworks

Souled Out is playing at War Memorial Park in Martinsburg from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 14. The performance will be followed by a fireworks display.

- Pancake breakfasts

Martinsburg Kiwanis Club sponsors a pancake breakfast Saturday and Sunday at Berkeley County Youth Fairgrounds. The Martinsburg Rotary Club offers the Bob Elmer/Rotary Sports Breakfast on Saturday with former Washington Redskins wide receiver Gary Clark and "Days of Our Lives" star Eric Winter.

- Arts and Crafts Show

From 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, the Berkeley County Youth Fairgrounds will host a 135-plus vendor craft show.

- Apple Trample

The 5K Apple Trample race starts at noon Saturday at the Dorothy McCormack Center.

- Feature parade

The Harvest Festival Grand Feature Parade will kick off at 1 p.m. Saturday traveling throughout downtown Martinsburg. Eric Winter of "Days of Our Lives" is the celebrity grand marshal, leading 155 parade entries, including marching bands, floats, firetrucks and equestrian teams.

- Car shows

Two car shows are planned in conjunction with the festival. From 3 to 7 p.m. Saturday, the Fall Finale Cruise'n Car Show will be at Rock Cliff Subs & Pizza in Martinsburg. From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, the Norwalk Antique Car Club will set up an antique vehicle show at Berkeley County Youth Fairgrounds.

- Dances

Two dances are scheduled for Saturday night. From 7 to 11 p.m., the Panhandlers Square Dance will be at the Eagle School Intermediate gym in Martinsburg. The Grand Ball will start at 9 p.m. and go until 1 a.m. at Heritage Hall in Inwood, W.Va. Mutual Fun will play at the semiformal event. Light buffet and cash bar are offered.

- Baby Apple Seed Contest

Festival-goers can vote for the next Baby Apple Seed winner from a pool of 25 babies ages 3 and younger. Voting takes place at the Martinsburg Mall and the fairgrounds.

If you go ...

WHAT: Mountain State Apple Harvest Festival

WHEN: Today through Sunday, Oct. 16.

WHERE: Throughout Berkeley and Jefferson counties; all events and activities Sunday are at Berkeley County Youth Fairgrounds in Martinsburg, W.Va.

COST: Admission charge for some events.

DIRECTIONS: To the fairgrounds: Take Interstate 81 south to exit 12. Turn left onto Winchester Avenue (W.Va. 45). Continue to follow W.Va. 45 east. W.Va. 45 east becomes W.Va. 9 east. Turn onto Grape Vine Road and follow signs to the fairgrounds off Golf Course Road.

MORE: For more information and schedules, go to

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