Step back in time at Buena Vista’s annual harvest celebration

The pace around these parts is quite relaxed compared to most places these days. Folks pride themselves in enjoying the little things, such as the plentiful outdoor beauty that is found in the valley. Around here it is easy to take a note from history and slow down to reconnect with what matters, and this weekend in Buena Vista the Apple Fest can provide the perfect event to do just that.

Since 1999, the Buena Vista Heritage Society has hosted Apple Fest, a free, donation-based fundraiser located at the historic Turner Farm on the second Saturday in September. The heritage society, along with more than 50 volunteers, encourage families to come to the farm to take a step back in time and enjoy a day filled with relaxing, historical fun.

Though it is just a one-day affair, the festival’s list of activities completely captures the essence of the period and will have the whole family anticipating the annual event for years to come. From apple-picking to storytelling and even pony rides and do-it-yourself straw dolls for the kids, it will be easy to imagine you’ve traveled back in time. There will be an apple pie contest, a cider press for making apple juice and historic reenactments during the celebration. Visitors can try their hand at daily chores with traditional tools, including a treadle sewing machine, a washboard, a two-man saw, a butter churn and a hand-powered coffee grinding. The festival is complete with a line-up of easy-listening tunes on the front porch throughout the day.

Event coordinator Judy Hassell has been in charge of Applefest since it became a Buena Vista Heritage affair. It was founded by the Collegiate Peaks Republican Women with a cake walk, bake sale and rally.

“It started as an old-fashioned political rally where they make a party out of getting the word out, and the Republican women were doing it. The next year the heritage society picked it up and kind of added to it. We always wanted to include the Republican women since they started the whole thing, and shortly after that we invited the Democrats to be a part, along with other booths and concessions, because we want everyone to be involved,” said Hassell.

Owned by the heritage society, the Turner Farm and apple orchard is a two-acre living museum with buildings and artifacts from the early 1900s. The facilities are used for various events. Since purchasing the property, the BV Heritage Society has completed work on the grounds, including replacing some apple trees, though the majority of the orchard is still original trees that are thought to be over a hundred years old. Restoration of the buildings is a work in progress but features the signature two-story farmhouse, a mother-in-law cabin, a homestead cabin, and the barn and tack room.

“Turner Farm is a heritage property that has been restored to a 1900-1920s style. It’s not completely finished, but it’s close. Many of the events for Apple Fest are outside, but some of the demonstrations and storytelling take place in the buildings, just like you would do back when,” she said.

“Apple Fest is a fundraiser, but it is also a signature event for BV Heritage. People can really get back and see what it was like. It is free, but we encourage donations so we can put money toward restoration of all the heritage properties.”

This year, the heartbeat of the festival is a series of local musical artists whose wide range of sounds will provide a casual, soft background for the day’s happenings. Randy and Carole Barnes of Enchanted Strings Music are the hosts and have been volunteering at Apple Fest since it began. They will kick off the music with their combination of genres ranging from classical to cowboy. Next up is Mountain Mantra, a trio of talent from BV that offers a mix of covers and unique originals to help all ages get their groove on. Then, at 12:45 p.m., acoustic duo Ceruleus will join the fun, performing distinctive covers of rock, folk and other popular songs. Winding up the musical lineup will be Frank Martinez with his harmonica in tow.

Two highlighted events for the festival are the apple pie contest and this year’s reenactment, “Victorian Secrets Show.” In the past, women’s clothing was much more complicated and structured than today’s easy-to-wear and comfortable clothing. The show, performed hourly, will tastefully demonstrate why it takes two women to dress one as they maneuver layers, bustle and corset. The apple pie contest is one of the first events of the day. Long-time judge Marge Erickson will choose the top three pies for best tasting, best looking and best crust. The pies will then be sold for additional fundraising.

“We start with the flag ceremony at 10 a.m., just like everything used to start with the Pledge of Allegiance, and then we just kind of relax and enjoy the festivities and the day. It’s a good family event. There is really something for everyone,” said Hassell.

At first, Apple Fest was just another fundraising event for the society to host during the fall, she said. However, it has evolved into a historical moment in time that allows people to experience their heritage. Each year it provides the same feeling of coming together and connecting with the past.

“I think what I really love is that it has become such a memory-maker for families. It takes them back into their own roots and thinking about where we all came from because most of us have a ranch or a farm in our background whether it’s a generation ago or five. It is just a nice-feeling event and a good way for families to enjoy each other. It is a day designed not to be rushed, and for time to visit and reconnect in the community.”