BUTLER TOWNSHIP – The Aullwood Apple Fest is the farms’ biggest annual event. For nearly three decades, Aullwood has been a local herald of the changing seasons with a celebration of the beauty and flavors of fall. On September 26-27 this year, the Apple Fest brought out hundreds of families from all over the Miami Valley. The event featured demonstrations of how to make apple butter, entertainment from Mad River Railroad, a visit from Johnny Appleseed, wagon rides, an Apple pie eating contest, a rooster-call contest, and numerous vendors and children’s activities.
The big vision behind Aullwood Audubon Center and Farm is simply that of education. Their purpose and mission is to expose local families to a working farm, so children can see first-hand how food is grown. The Apple Fest is one of two fun, family-friendly events and fundraisers at Aullwood. The other event is in the spring and features their many baby animals.
Somewhere between 7,000-8,000 people attended this year’s festival. Environmental Education Specialist and director of the Apple Fest, Tara Pitstick, said that the event keeps her staff working hard for several months in preparation. “It’s a lot of pre-planning and organizing,” Pitstick said. “If we didn’t have volunteers, this festival wouldn’t happen.” Aullwood had the help of 300 volunteers over the course of two days. They were organized and given instructions by Nina Lapitan, the volunteer coordinator. Many of those who signed up to help this year came from area universities like the University of Dayton and Wright State.
“We are blessed to have tremendous support and have long-standing relationships with area universities,” Lapitan said. “It’s a way for students to get their community service hours for their programs and it’s a lot of fun too.” The University of Dayton set up their River Mobile Learning Studio in the parking lot of Aullwood during the event. The River Mobile is a 53-foot tractor-trailer outfitted with five unique spaces inside to depict different environments and aspects of the Great Miami River Watershed.
Other vendors at the event came from as far away as Illinois and Michigan and included hand-made crafts, homemade foods, and activities for children. Around 15 bushels of apples were brought in from Downing Farm in New Madison, Ohio for cider pressing and apple pies. They even had apple slushies, caramel apples, and pumpkins available for sale under the eaves of the Audubon Center. Sister Cities of Englewood capitalized on apple dumplings and ice cream.
According to Pitstick, the cooler weather and cloudy skies at this year’s festival prevented the attendance of a local contingency of bees that frequently make their way into the event along with the crowds of people for the sweet taste of apples. “It’s been the perfect temperature and weather; we could not have asked for a better weekend,” Pitstick said.
The Aullwood Audubon Center and Farm is an active non-profit in operation year round. For information on future events and upcoming opportunities to volunteer, please visit their website at aullwood.center.audubon.org or email Nina Lapitan at email@example.com.
Reach Brittany Jackson at 937-684-8983 or on Twitter @VandaliaDrummer.