Chilhowie will once again resound with music and excitement as the 67th annual Chilhowie Community Apple Festival arrives this weekend.
“We are very excited to be able to have the festival this year after not being able to have it last year due to COVID restrictions,” said co-presidents Rebecca Wilkinson-Smith and Vicki Wilson. “Our theme for this year’s festival is ‘Flavors of Fall’. We hope that our festival helps rekindle the pleasant ‘flavors’ of falls gone by and creates new ‘flavors’ to savor in the future.”
The event includes music and food, arts and crafts, a grand parade featuring bands that will be performing in the high school band competition, a pet show, agriculture exhibits, a farmers market, and much more.
According to organizers, there will be mitigation protocols to this year's festival due to continuing COVID-19 restrictions. Vendors will be spaced further apart as will picnic tables, visitors to the old high school for exhibits are asked to wear masks, train riders will be spaced apart, there will be no baked goods category for this year’s exhibits, children’s crafts will be available to take home rather than make on site, there will be no costumed characters in the parade, no items may be handed out to parade-goers, and there will be no inflatables for children to play on. There will be hand-washing stations available along with hand sanitizer and masks at the old high school.
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“The festival, which began in 1953, is a rich celebration of our heritage,” said Mayor Gary Heninger. “We are also fortunate to have all the dedicated and hardworking volunteers who make the 2021 Chilhowie Community Apple Festival possible again.”
The festival catalog cover is designed by Chilhowie native Debbi Martin, a 1985 graduate of Chilhowie High School, the Art Institute of Atlanta, and Emory & Henry College. She has been a high school teacher for more than 20 years.
Of her cover, Martin said, “After the year we’ve all had, I wanted to do something light-hearted and fun so I landed on a friendly scarecrow holding some apples.”
A highlight of the festival is the grand parade on Saturday at 10 a.m. This year’s parade marshal is Olivia Bailey, a 2010 graduate of Chilhowie High School and a graduate of Emory & Henry College. Bailey is a full-time morning anchor for News 5 Today at WCYB in Bristol. She is often back in her home community bringing reports of interest to viewers.
The parade will take place on Highway 11 from the west end of town to the high school. All area businesses, civic groups, schools and churches have been encouraged to enter floats in the parade observing the theme.
Antique cars are asked to line-up on West Main Street beginning at the western-most end closest to Highway 11 rather than West Highway 11 as in previous years.
All parade participants as well as visitors to the festival are asked to use I-81 Exit 32 or 39. Avoid using I-81 Exit 35 as highway construction work is ongoing restricting travel through the area.
Berry Home Centers continues to be a part of the Chilhowie Community Apple Festival tradition and is contributing $500 to each high school marching band that participates in the festival’s parade.
The annual high school band competition will take place on Saturday beginning at 1 p.m. in the high school stadium. Admission is $5 per person with proceeds going to the Chilhowie Band Boosters to help with the purchase of uniforms and other band-related expenses.
Craft and vendor booths will be open in Lucas Dowell Memorial Park on Friday from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m.; on Saturday from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m.; and on Sunday from 12:30 p.m. until 5 p.m.
Activities in the booth area will include clogging, musical entertainment, gospel singing, and craft demonstrations. Food concessions will be open and only those vendors who have contracts with the Apple Festival may sell food and drinks.
All entries to the exhibit area should be made on Thursday from 3 to 7 p.m. with the exception of flower arrangements, which can be entered on Friday from 8 to 9 a.m.
The Iron Mountain Antique Tractor and Engine Club is presenting the antique tractor and engine show at the Chilhowie Commons Plaza from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. on Friday and from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday.
The 2021 Miss Apple Festival will be crowned at 12:30 p.m. at the high school stadium. Pageants for queens in various age categories were held on Sept. 18.
A cruise-in was held on Main Street as a new event of the festival in 2017. It was so successful that it has been added as a permanent event. The Apple Festival Cruise-In will be held on Saturday from 3 p.m. until dark on the paved area behind New People’s Bank.
The P.F. Flyers, including Graham Clark, former CHS coach and member of the band, will perform on Saturday from 6:30-9:30 on the stage in the town park as part of the summer concert series. Admission is free.
“Cowboy Church” will take place at 10 a.m. on Sunday on the stage in front of the old high school courtesy of Calvary Church of Southwest Virginia with the CHS chorus performing at 1 p.m. and gospel music.
A pet show will be held on Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Little League ball field with registration at 12:30 p.m.
Those interested in the source of the favorite fruit of the festival can join tours of the Tumbling Creek Cider Company apple orchard in Abingdon taking place all weekend. Included in their orchards are many grafts of the original Bonham Brothers Orchard trees and older varieties of Virginia apples. Tours will be given to limited groups at 2 p.m. on Friday, 1 and 4 p.m. on Saturday, and 2 p.m. on Sunday. Vans will leave from the Berry’s Truss Shop parking lot by Highway 11 across from the festival grounds. A cider tasting garden will be set up at the truss shop location during festival hours.
For more information about the festival, go online to www.chilhowieapplefestival.com and look for festival brochures around the county.