Over the years, I’ve assisted in putting on numerous outdoor events in Southwest Colorado.
For eight years, I’ve worked on the Iron Horse Chef and Tour de Farms; I’ve organized countless workshops, field days and demonstrations; and for eight years (wow, I was ambitious eight years ago) I have also been part of the Apple Days Festival.
With all these events came the risk of being rained out or snowed out, of having crummy or cold weather or, in the case of the Iron Horse Chef cooking competition, having a chef wilt over a hot grill in the middle of August on black pavement at the Durango Farmers Market.
Yet for some reason, be it luck, aligned planets or the moon being in the house of whatever, I’ve never had to cancel because of bad weather. Not once.
So I trust in my cards that come Sunday, when we start pressing thousands of pounds of apples in the middle of Buckley Park in downtown Durango, the late-morning dew will give way to an early-afternoon sun that will warm the grass once again.
Call it fortuitous luck, but we have been blessed with glorious days for the festival. And, no, I don’t plan on knocking on wood or performing some superstitious ritual to make sure I just didn’t jinx myself. I have faith there is a greater force looking out for us on that day. All you have to do is go to one Apple Days and you will know why I believe.
The festival brings so many of us back to a simple time. A time when you can gather the kids – no matter what age – and trust that, while you sit on the lawn talking with friends, they will be just fine. They will be making apple-peel Slinkys, challenging their friends in a potato-sack race, chowing down in a pie-eating contest, turning apples into juice and pulp, getting their faces painted or dancing to music from the Stillwater Foundation.
It’s just simple. It’s friends and family and community. It’s good, locally-sourced and locally-made food. It’s supporting awesome organizations such as 4-H, The Garden Project, the Fort Lewis Environmental Center and Growing Partners of Southwest Colorado.
It’s the end of summer and the start of fall all wrapped into five hours.
In addition to the smiles, I hope the festival serves a greater purpose: to use fruit that would otherwise go to waste or serve as fodder for potential bear-human interactions.
As you walk around town, dodging the piles of bear scat, take a moment to see what that scat consists of. I bet I know what you will see. By picking our apples, we are telling bears to stay out of our trees (at some point they, and we, will start listening) and to share in the wealth of a county full of fruit.
So if you have a tree that needs to be harvested, fantastic. Email me Thursday or Friday, and we will do our best to send our volunteer crew your way Saturday. If not, then I hope to see you and your smile this Sunday.
Darrin Parmenter is the director and horticulture agent of the La Plata County Extension Office. Reach him at email@example.com or 382-6464.