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The show goes on: Country Apple Orchard Fall Festival kicks off without apple picking, but plenty of apples
After bugs devastate year's fruit crop, Harrisburg business pivots
They are called Western flower thrips – minute insects as wide as a needle and about .03 inches long. Thrips are attracted to the blossoms of apple trees and cause egg-laying punctures in the apple buds at about the half-inch green stage of development. Their primary damage usually occurring in mid-April.
For Country Apple Orchard the insect, along with drought, devastated their 6,000 apples trees this season.
“Sadly, with no apples, there will not be any apple picking this year at the Fall Festival,” said Amber Halvorson, general manager of Country Apple Orchard.
Country Apple Orchard has been a fall destination for area families since 1984. And with 6,000 apple trees and 13 varieties of apples, its 55-acre orchards have always been plentiful.
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“We know the You-Pick Apples has always been a big draw each year. It’s unfortunate this offering won’t be part of this year’s Fall Festival,” she said.
Still, Halvorson says there will be lots and lots of apples even without the orchard picking.
“Our owner Greg Jones got creative,” she said. “He enlisted the help from area orchards and brought in lots of apples for the Country Store. Though these aren’t Country Apple Orchard apples, our customers can expect four varieties of bagged apples at any given week. This next week look for First Kiss, Zestar, Honeycrisp and Sweet Tango. And we have plenty of caramel apples and apple pies.”
Though Country Apple Orchard won’t have the apple picking as part this year’s festival, Halvorson says they have still planned for large crowds. Last year’s nine-week festival that ran during September and October drew more than 60,000 people. They have hired 60 seasonal workers who will be selling caramel apples or pumpkins, working the Country Store or outside concessions, attending to parking, giving tractor rides or just making sure fun happens.
“There are so many reasons to come to Country Apple Orchard this September or October. There’s a petting zoo, a giant haybale maze, a sandcastle tire mountain, South Dakota’s largest jumping pillows, a 150-ftoot zipline course, a 120-foot POET corn pit, not to mention the Country Store, the candy store, the apple cider donuts and the 657 frozen apple pies.”
In all, there are 20 different attractions and each year the festival continues to grow.
“Our owner keeps coming up with new ideas,” Halvorson said. “This year he added the Optimus Combine Slide as well as lots of new local products from area vendors to our Country Store.”
“The Fall Festival has so much going on each weekend. It has become a fall destination,” she added.
Triple-digit temperatures the first weekend of the Fall Festival kept the crowds away, but the second weekend has been a different matter.
“The large crowds are what we plan for,” said Halvorson. “This place comes to life in the fall.”
Country Apple Orchard is located at 27249 SD-115 (Minnesota Avenue) in Harrisburg. The Fall Festival runs every Friday, Saturday and Sunday in September and October. Hours are Fridays 4 p.m. – 8 p.m.; Saturdays 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.; and Sundays 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. Admission is $10.75 per person on Fridays and $14.50 per person Saturdays and Sundays. Kids under 35 inches are free.