Henderson County in North Carolina has a rich history in apple growing, which has significantly shaped its cultural and economic landscape. This history and the annual Apple Festival tradition have roots that date back to the mid-1700s.
The Rise of Apple Growing in Henderson County
Early Beginnings: Apple cultivation in Henderson County started as far back as the mid-1700s. Initially, the main commercial crops were vegetables, with apples trailing behind other fruits like peaches, grapes, strawberries, and pears. Early settlers grew a variety of apple types, such as Ben Davis, Arkansas Black, Carolina Red June, among others. These apples were initially transported by wagon to markets in nearby cities like Greenville and Spartanburg, SC.
Expansion and Development: By the 1920s, there was a shift with farmers planting more apple trees. Innovations like the introduction of the King Luscious variety by William Dalton and the promotion of apple tree planting by the Lyda family in Edneyville played a significant role. The soil and climate conditions in Henderson County, characterized by cool nights and warm days, proved ideal for apple cultivation.
Post-WWII Growth: After World War II, the apple industry in Henderson County experienced significant growth. This was partly due to increased commercial demand, with truckers from South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida buying apples from the county. Advances in apple grading and packing also contributed to this growth.
The North Carolina Apple Festival Tradition
Origins: The North Carolina Apple Festival, initially known as the Apple Blossom Festival, started in 1947. It was a celebration of the local apple industry, which by then had become a significant part of the county's economy and culture.
Evolution Over the Years: Over the years, the festival has evolved into a major event, attracting visitors from far and wide. Held annually over Labor Day weekend, it features a street fair on Historic Main Street in Hendersonville, with various events like arts & crafts, local apple growers selling products, children's activities, and free entertainment.
Significance: The festival not only celebrates the apple as a key agricultural crop in Henderson County but also supports local apple growers. It contributes significantly to the local economy, with apple farming being a major industry in the county.
Current Status: Today, Henderson County is recognized as a top apple-growing county in the nation and is responsible for a significant portion of North Carolina's apple production. The festival has become a symbol of this heritage, showcasing the importance of apples in the region.
In summary, the history of apple growing in Henderson County and the tradition of the Apple Festival highlight the region's agricultural heritage and its evolution into a major apple-producing area in the United States.