Bayfield's Apple Fest Celebrates 50 Years

By KBJR News 1

October 6, 2011 Updated Oct 6, 2011 at 10:29 PM CDT

Bayfield, WI (Northland's NewsCenter) -- It's a tradition Bayfield now has down to a "T". The city's famous Apple Festival is celebrating its 50th year this weekend.

And while the gathering of "everything apples" has evolved, the atmosphere is very much the same.

LeAnn Wallace has the story.

For one weekend each fall, the streets of Bayfield Wisconsin are transformed into an array of apples, people, shops, and carnival rides.
But it wasn't always like that.

"If anybody alive now that remembers 50 years ago, you should also remember that tourism pretty much died when Labor Day arrived."

In an effort to attract visitors, Julian Nelson along with a few friends suggested an Apple Festival.

"And one of the guys, Jimmy Erickson said...well let's try and Apple Festival."

The group hoped to capitalize on the scenic fall colors while giving a boost to the Apple Harvest. It was a good idea but with little money, planning or expectations, the group continuously met to brainstorm ideas.

"And then in comes an announcer from channel 6 in Duluth. And he heard us talking and he says "sounds interesting, but tell me, what can we do?'"

Channel 6 agreed to promote the event for free that year and just days later 5,000 people showed up for the first ever Bayfield Apple Fest.

Fast forward fifty years and the tradition continues.

"It's the most quintessential small town celebration you can imagine in this crazy world we live in."

Mary Rice has had her hand in Apple Fest for decades and says the tradition shows no sign of slowing down.

"We'll figure out how to be here forever and celebrate history and celebrate the modern day and have fun at Apple Fest."

"It's unimaginable how talking about an event like this that had absolutely no financing, no planning, no management could evolve into something like this."

To celebrate 50 years, a new song called "Never Far From the Tree" was written and performed by Cheryl Leah and Ed Willett.