The Apple Festival is known for jamming downtown Erwin’s streets with vendors, crowds and everything apple from decorations to sweets. And for a festival that draws crowds well over 100,000 per year, many vendors look forward to the festival for profits — including the Clinchfield Senior Center.
Each year, members of the center and volunteers work together to sell crafts, food and baked goods as a fundraiser for the center, and more volunteers help with parking for the festival. And this year, the seniors center will need that funding, as the Erwin Board of Mayor and Alderman voted this summer to slash half the funding for most of the community’s nonprofits.
“This is our largest fundraiser,” Mike Reese, the center’s administrative assistant, said. “(Friday), the weather wasn’t so good, but we did really well, revenue-wise. Today, we will do OK.”
Reese said the center prepared for the gloomy weather that accompanied this year’s festival, and urns filled with hot cider and hot chocolate proved to be some of the best-sellers, in addition to homemade crafts, apple pies and canned vegetables.
Ursula Behling, a member of the center, helped to maintain the tent due to a shortage of volunteers, working alongside of Dana Sawicki, a visitor from Oak Ridge who decided to lend her time to help out the Senior Center. Sawicki spent the weekend in Erwin visiting her mother, but made sure to devote some time to serving hot beverages to chilled guests to help raise money for the senior center.
“It’s important (to be here) so that the Senior Center can get the support that it needs,” Behling said.
Since the Apple Festival is a big boost to the community’s economy, the Unicoi County Chamber of Commerce pours a lot of resources into making sure each year is a success, according to Amanda Delp, the Chamber’s executive director.
And planning the festival is a year-round process for the Chamber to pull off the nationally-recognized celebration. Delp, who has helped to organize the festival for the past 15 years, said preparations for next year’s festival began two months ago.
“We’ve been very aggressive in growing the festival and growing the vendors and keeping them new and fresh,” Delp said, adding that the Chamber always strives to produce a full festival each year. “People know that when they come to the festival, there are going to be 350 vendors here and entertainment stages. We’re always trying to add new elements and grow the festival.”
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