Apple festivals battle for fans this weekend

Published: Oct. 5, 2017 at 5:25 PM EDT
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Fall means hay rides, corn mazes, and picking pumpkins.

It’s also big business for the orchards, and this weekend is the Super Bowl for apple growers. A rarity happens, as the areas two top fall festivals underway on the same days.

While it may look sleepy now, downtown Grand Rapids is ready for the crowds. More than 10,000 people will gather here Sunday.

“We've got a huge petting zoo for the kids. We're trying to base it on families,” Jeff MacQueen said. Jeff is the president of MacQueen orchards, which is near Toledo’s airport.

Now for the battle: In one corner, MacQueens, with pick-your-own apples. And on the other side, of the Maumee:

“Cannon fire throughout the day,” Lisa Hatfield said. Lisa is a committee chairperson for Grand Rapids Apple Butter festival.

Both the Grand Rapids Apple Butter and the MacQueens Apple Butter Stir Festivals go back at least 35 years.

“Every seven years, we end up with the same as Grand Rapids,” MacQueen said.

Both will draw crowds, and both sell homemade, you guessed it: apple butter.

“There's a great place for the kids to hang out,” Hatfield said. “The demonstrators are going to be in the park.”

These are the old-time craftspeople in Grand Rapids. Both are kid friendly, but at MacQueens, you'll see the whole process. Well, almost. President Jeff MacQueen gave us a behind-closed doors tour of the cold room.

It will hold 22,000 bushels, or more than two million, apples.

“See it's probably 35°. We keep it at 35°,” MacQueen said.

Jeff says the yield looks great, with a wacky summer not hurting his trees.

“We are in a two week early season this year,” MacQueen said. “And that was due to the mild February.”

Get there soon. About half his pick-your-own verities are picked clean. Back south, you can stir-your-own, in old cauldrons.

“It is the biggest apple butter fest. Just look for our official parking lots emblems,” Hatfield said.

There's no admission for either the Apple Butter or Apple Butter Stir Festival. But parking is always at a premium. At MacQueens, you'll park for free. But in Grand Rapids, organizers want you to pay $15 a car load.