Several hundred applephiles – the fruit not the tech company – enjoyed Sunday’s brilliant blue autumn skies and celebrated the work of volunteers who helped glean the red stone fruit from orchards across La Plata County at Buckley Park.
The crowds had come to enjoy the 11th annual Apple Days Festival at the park featuring kids’ pie-eating contests and other games, live music, hard cider tastings, food vendors and bake sales.
“This is just a wonderful way to celebrate our local apples and help rebuild our apple economy,” said Good Food Collective Director Rachel Landis, who helped organize the event.
On Saturday, 80 volunteers helped glean apples from 18 different orchards across the county. The apples will go to food pantries and to support regional cider makers across Southwest Colorado. Some 4,000 pounds of apples were gleaned.
Before the advent of commercial apple production in Washington state in the early 20th century, Southwest Colorado used to be an “apple shed,” Landis said.
The fruit was desired by local miners for “mad applejack cider” and to provide produce and cider for both passengers and workers on local railroads.
“This is a great area for growing apples. The hot days and cool nights help sweeten the apples,” Landis said.
During autumn, The Good Food Collective holds weekly fruit gleanings to help prevent fruit going to rot and to minimize the valley’s attraction to bears.
Anyone interested in helping the collective can email Landis at email@example.com or visit the group’s website.
Taylor Roscioli and Jamie Venage, both of Durango, where among the hundreds of people enjoying the festivities Saturday.
“I just like apples, I like baking them and eating them,” Venage said.