To whomever flipped the autumnal weather switch on Saturday, just in time for the annual Brushy Mountain Apple Festival and my 30-year class reunion, I offer my sincere thanks. Timing, as they say, is everything.
We went from a hot and humid 90 degrees on Friday to a cool and comfortable 65 degrees on Saturday, and the collective sigh of relief from festival attendees in downtown North Wilkesboro could be heard clear to the Brushy Mountains.
It was the 42nd year that tens of thousands of people ascended upon the town to take in the sights, smells, sounds and tastes of the street festival that celebrates our local apple industry but has expanded to include so much more.
Organizers and other promoters have called our apple festival one of the most attended single-day arts and crafts festivals east of the Mississippi. I’ve seen the number 160,000 bandied about, and whether or not that’s absolutely accurate really isn’t important.
If you’ve ever been to our apple festival, you know that it feels like that many people are truly crammed into every nook and cranny of the downtown. It’s not the most attractive venue for a claustrophobe.
The festival opened just after I started elementary school. I have an early recollection of my parents taking me to one of the first festivals, but if memory serves we didn’t ever go back as a family. To put it bluntly, my dad is simply not a fan of big crowds and traffic jams.
I started attending on my own as soon as I had my own car to drive. The festival itself didn’t change much from year to year, but it drew me back year after year simply because it was a big “event” in Wilkes County. Everybody and their brothers showed up for this de facto reunion, sometimes just to see old faces and chat with familiar friends on the first Saturday in October.
My high school chum and college roommate Chris Milner flew down from Massachusetts with his wife to take in the apple festival and class reunion. The food was perhaps the best part of returning to the festival, he told me. Between the Brushy Mountain Fire Department’s fried apple pies, the Kiwanis Club’s pulled pork sandwiches, “garbage fries,” Duck Donuts and muscadine slushies, Chris was in culinary heaven.
After the festival, we had a blast at the West Wilkes High School Class of 1989’s 30-year reunion inside the Wilkes Heritage Museum in Wilkesboro. The venue was ideal and the catered meal from Blake Sebastian was delicious.
But unquestionably the best part of the reunion was exchanging hugs and handshakes with dear classmates and their spouses, many of whom I hadn’t seen since our last reunion 10 years ago. We had a solid turnout of 42 Blackhawks and their guests.
I’d be remiss without giving special shout-outs to Laura Kilby Andrews for the amazing 1980s-themed decorations and Cathy Huffman Huie for the challenging Class of 1989 trivia game. It was a wonderfully entertaining trip down a memory lane that bisected Millers Creek.
Speaking of the 1980s, I hosted an ’80s-themed get-together before and after the reunion at my house, which is only a block or so away from the museum. How could you not have a good time with timeless ’80s music videos on the TV, classic ’80s snacks on the counter and good ol’ Wilkes County-based moonshine in our tumblers? It was a blast, to say the least.
It was a jam-packed day I won’t soon forget. The weather was ideal, the food was amazing, and, most importantly, the fellowship with friends I cherish was on full tilt. It’s days like Saturday that are so pleasurable to revisit in memory.