The first Saturday in October brings the masses to North Wilkesboro for the Brushy Mountain Apple Festival. They come to town for what has become one of the largest single day arts and crafts festivals in the Southeast US. Over 160,000 people crowd the downtown streets enjoying a day of food, fellowship and downright fun.
How to get to the Apple Festival.
The festival is held on the streets of downtown North Wilkesboro, so regardless of where you are coming from, just follow the signs once you get into Wilkes County. If you are coming from the east, I would advise you to take the NC Hwy 115 exit and turn right on 115. This will take you to NC 268, turn left on NC 268 and you will run right into the festival.
If you are coming from the west on US 421, take “421 Business” into the downtown area. This left turn is the next left after the Taco Bell. Business 421 will take you directly into the down town area. If you are tech savvy, just enter North Wilkesboro into whatever device you have and hit the road.
Like most large events, parking is the challenge. The downtown area is closed off, so parking has to be in the surrounding areas. Many public and private lots are open for paid parking (the closer the parking, the higher the price). In addition, the Festival provides free shuttle service to and from parking at West Park where there is lots of free parking. Visit www.applefestival.net and click on the parking link for information on this service.
You will find a place to park, so be patient and decide if you want to walk in from paid parking or ride in from free parking. Also, a word to the wise, the neighbors around the festival are wonderful people, but they draw the line when you park in their yard or driveway, so play nice.
Food and Beverage
The Brushy Mountain Apple Festival is famous for its food selection. My wife always shows up early (7am) and enjoys a country ham biscuit or apple pie. Food is available throughout the festival grounds, so be sure to bring your festival map or pick on up the intersection of Main and 9th and do your food research ahead of time. (Nothing worse than eating something at one location only to realize that you missed out on your favorite just a block away)
Prices are reasonable and the food quality is excellent. The variety is expansive and you will find more that you want to eat than you can eat (very frustrating J). Again, research is the key to finding just what you are craving. My favorites are always the ice cream, the homemade apple pies, awesome Carolina pit cooked bar-be-que, anything with grilled peppers and onions and that really greasy slice of pizza. But whatever your personal tastes are, you will find a place to chow down and enjoy.
An honorable mention here, a local water bottling company sets up a location at the Main and 9th intersection and gives a cold, clear drink of mountain water to every festival goer. Kudos to Brushy Mountain Water and Coffee Company!!
Things to do at the Apple Festival.
Every corner brings a surprise and every street a new series of crafts to enjoy. My favorite times at the festival are watching the artisans at work. Blacksmiths, quilters, potters, wood workers and many others are hard at work and you can quietly watch or ask questions as the work their magic. Where else can you watch cane be turned into molasses or hear southern gospel singers while your child is having their face painted? To say the least, diversity reigns supreme. Take your time, get into the crowd and see what each vendor has to offer.
And don’t forget, this is a celebration of the apple harvest on the Brushy Mountains. The orchards produce some of the best apples in the nation and are available for purchase at the end of almost every street. My favorite apple is the Pink Lady, a wonderful combination of sweet and sour that leaves your mouth watering.
The festival has added a Friday night event known as the “Apple Jam” that is centered on local music. It is held in the Festival Park located on the corner of 10th and Main in downtown North Wilkesboro. The Friday night festivities begin at 6 PM, so come early, bring your chairs and enjoy some beautiful mountain music.
1. The crowds are large, but the people are wonderful. If you are opposed to large crowds, show up early or arrive late and you will miss the biggest crowds.
2. Do your homework ahead of time; this will save you time and lots of walking, nothing worse than backtracking at a street festival.
3. Bring something to carry your awesome purchases in. Backpacks or shoulder bags are excellent choices.
4. If you bring children, allow adequate time for them to have a blast in the children’s area. My kids always loved the sand art and face painting.
5. Wear great walking shoes. You are on streets and sidewalks the entire time and some nicely padded walking shoes will seem worth their weight in gold.
6. Dress in layers. You are in the foothills of North Carolina and as Forrest Gump said… “You never know what you’re going to get”.
7. Get a good night’s sleep the night before and bring a big bag of patience. If you get in a hurry, you will miss something pretty special or you will be very frustrated.
8. Get a bag of apples! This festival is still months away and I am already craving one of those wonderful Brushy Mountain apples.
Leaving the Apple Festival
Because it is an all day festival, leaving is no big deal. There is no mad rush or clogged highways, so take your time, leave when you want to and enjoy the view as you go. Before you go, be sure to stop by the Festival headquarters at the intersection of 9th and Main and get your free VisitWilkesboroNC.com bumper sticker. See you there.