The annual festival of all things apple is returning to Sooke’s Sunriver Community Gardens on Sept. 23 as Apple Fest returns for its fifth year.
It’s an event that not only celebrates what has been described as the “king of fruits” but draws attention to the benefits of cultivating one’s own food.
“About seven years ago we were establishing the Sunriver Community Garden and we had a parcel of land that we thought would be a good orchard. We planted trees and they are now bearing fruit,” said Anita Wasiuta, president of the Sooke Region Food CHI (Community Health Initiative) Society.
“Being gardeners, we planned ahead and left enough room between the trees to host a festival to celebrate the apples that we knew would come in time.”
The bounty of those recently planted trees (B.C. apple trees have been known to live for more than 150 years) has not only been the inspiration for Apple Fest but a source of fresh produce for the Sooke Food Bank.
“Between the apples and the produce grown at the community garden where programs like Grow a Row” are in full swing, we contributed more than 4,000 pounds of produce to the food bank this year,” said Wasiuta.
The festival includes a whole host of activities for all ages, ranging from apple bobbing for the kids (and those who are kids at heart), to apple pie auctions, apple sales, and the chance to press your own apples to produce fresh, pure apple juice.
“We’ll have lots of kids games and music at the event with the Gord Phillips Band performing songs that range from roots and folk to upbeat blues-rock,” said Wasiuta.
“We’ll also have some neat sort of attractions like the Ann Aylard Farm B.C.’s Fruit Tree Testing organization on site to help you identify the type of apples you may have growing in your yard.”
That last attraction provided a surprise to Wasiuta when, last year, she brought in an apple from her own tree and discovered that it was a very rare heritage apple named the Arthur W. Barnes, a variety of apple that, once popular, has almost disappeared from the landscape.
“Part of what we’re doing as a society is to get people excited about growing their own food and appreciating the variety of food that can be raised in places like the community gardens or home gardens and orchards,” explained Wasiuta.
“The other part, and a big part of the Apple Fest, is to celebrate apples and food in general and to have a lot of fun doing it.”
Apple Fest is a free family event with admission by donation. It takes place at the Sunriver Community Garden, 2380 Phillips Rd.
Admission is by donation and festivities begin at 10 a.m. and continue until 3 p.m.