LENOX, MASS. — This year's Lenox Apple Squeeze will include a new mainstage, new performers and new vendors, but apples — despite a challenging growing season — will remain the main attraction of this year's popular community harvest festival.
Event activities are scheduled to take place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., this Saturday and Sunday, throughout the downtown area.
"There are apples everywhere at this event," said Kameron Spaulding, director of the Lenox Chamber of Commerce. Now in its 37th year, this is his first time organizing the Apple Squeeze since his appointment to the Chamber post last February.
"We've got a lot of new things happening this year, but the apples are still the core of it," said Spaulding. "The local businesses do this thing called "The Apple Walk" along Church Street, where they put bushels of apples in their storefronts for people to grab a free apple from. It's still so fun to watch kids running up and down the streets with an apple in their hands."
The Apple Squeeze showcases both traditional and innovative ways of tasting and using apples. Here's 10 fun apple offerings (in no particular order) you might want to explore:
Apples in the raw
Hilltop Orchards in Richmond, Mass., will be the main purveyor of the fresh fall fruit. Operations Manager David Martell said that while this year's drought resulted in an 80 percent loss of the orchard's crops, "What we do have is very nice." Hilltop varieties to be offered will include Cortland, McIntosh, Honeycrisp, Gala, and likely Golden Supreme and Macoun apples. They'll also be bringing some pears.
A cider for everyone
Cider may be the signature libation for fall sipping. Spaulding says the weekend's weather will be the barometer for whether it will be more popular served hot or cold. You will also be able to find a range of non-alcoholic as well as hard ciders at this festival. Hilltop will be offering its award-winning American oak aged Johnny Mash hard cider, which has been around since before the big cider boom of recent years. They now also brew a "Dry Gold" version, and a French-style cidre.
Angry Orchard, the hard cider company, and Samuel Adams, the beer company, both owned by the Boston Beer Company are among the main sponsors for this year's event. The Angry Orchard apple orchard, is actually located in Walden, N.Y., not too far from the Berkshires in the Hudson Valley. The companies will be operating an outdoor bar, featuring cider and beer tastings and full servings for purchase.
Fine wines, too
Spaulding said Nejaime's Wine Cellar will be doing an apple-themed in-store wine tasting on Saturday. Hilltop will have its wines available at the festival too, including its latest apple-based Berkshire Harvest Ice Wine.
Spaulding said the Apple Squeeze has also partnered with a variety of vendors from the Lenox Farmer's Market. They'll have sweet and savory treats, from candied apples, apple dumplings, bread and cheese, a bounty of fall produce and more. And yes, Mary Zabian's famous cake booth will be there too, with slices as big as your plate.
An apple-fed spread
Several area restaurants will be joining in the celebration by offering apple-infused fare. The Olde Heritage Tavern is kicking it up a notch by cooking up an entire apple-focused menu, which will include a salad with stewed apples, apple sauced ribs, apple slaw, apple cocktails and more.
Take home recipes
Want some ideas to go with them apples? Free apple recipe cards will be ripe for the picking, all weekend long, at the Lenox Visitors Center, located at 4 Housatonic St.
Pies abound, but no contest
Varies styles of apple pies and crisps will be available for the tasting, but due to town health codes, Spaulding says the pie eating contests of yore are no longer.
Over the years, several area artists and galleries have been inspired to feature apple-themed art, but there will be plenty of other non-apple displays in sculpture, painting, jewelry, crafts and more.
Spaulding said a "dessert bar" will offer 50 to 60 different kinds of sweet treats, featuring flavors of apple, chocolate, caramel and more.
More than apples
The Lenox Apple Squeeze celebrates not only apples, but the whole autumn harvest season. There will be pumpkin, honey and maple products as well as other food truck and booth fare to sample on the sidewalk or take home to savor later.
IF YOU GO ...
What: Apple Squeeze 2016
When: Events, vendors all day Saturday, Sept. 24, and Sunday, Sept. 25
Where: Main Street, downtown Lenox, Mass.