Fall for family fun: Applecrest celebrates season with weekend festivals

From now until the end of October, Applecrest Farm in Hampton is celebrating all things fall with festivals each weekend that feature apple and pumpkin picking, hayrides, barnyard animals, a beer garden and more.

The festival, now in its 45th year, is meant to be more than just a few fun weekends to draw crowds to the orchards. For the farm’s owners, the Wagners, it’s a chance to let families reconnect with the land, the community and each other.

“It’s where people’s memories are made,” said farmer Todd Wagner, whose grandfather, William Wagner, purchased the farm in 1954. “These days, there aren’t too many farms left as places become more crowded and built up and industrialized, commercialized. It’s hard to find something that’s sort of a blast from the past, something that brings you back and lets you connect with the place that your food is grown.”

Other events at each weekend festival include live music, pie-eating contests, food trucks, face painting, a farm-style barbecue, cornhole, a traditional New England corn roast and more.

Wagner said apple picking is one of the festival’s most popular activities. He said parents and grandparents often have fond memories of going to the orchard as children and are always excited to share the tradition with their own kids.

“Apple picking is a very unique New England tradition,” he said. “It’s a tradition that families live and die by. I can’t tell you the number of times [I hear], ‘I brought my kids here and now I bring my grandkids here.’ We have to have a multigenerational thing. As long as we’ve been throwing these festivals, the local community has been coming out and joining us. It’s a pretty unique, undeniably kind of awesome New England tradition.”

In addition to typical festival activities, Applecrest has several other fall-themed events planned. On Saturday, Oct. 5, and Sunday, Oct. 13, farm-goers can watch as a master carver transforms an 800-pound pumpkin into a surprise Halloween-themed shape.

For those looking for something more interactive, Storybook Hayrides will take place the weekends of Oct. 19 and Oct. 20 and Oct. 26 and Oct. 27, with classic storybook characters coming to life in the orchards as they perform lively vignettes from eight beloved children’s stories. Kids will have the opportunity to partake in the fun as they warn Little Red of an approaching wolf and help Dorothy along the yellow brick road. The performances are popular with the younger crowds, Wagner says, and also raise funds for Sanborn Regional High School’s drama club.

“It’s a really special thing we do,” Wagner said. “It’s a really neat thing that all the youngsters seem to really connect with.”

Finally, on Sunday, Oct. 27, Applecrest will close out the festivities by hosting NorEast Cycling for their 11th Annual Orchard Cross bike race. It will be accompanied by a mini version for the kids, as well as an all-ages costume rally.

“It’s a really neat way to get out there and really see what the farm is all about. It’s just … fun with a very family-friendly atmosphere,” Wagner said.

For him, it’s all about making sure families have a good time and create some memories together.

“[People will] come up to me and be like, ‘Hey, thanks. That was a really great day to pick. The staff was super friendly. what a great day on the farm,’ and that right there, you know, that’s pretty rewarding,” he said.

For a full list of events and activities, or for up-to-date event details, weather and picking conditions, call 926-3721 or visit applecrest.com. Applecrest’s weekend festivals continue every Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. until the end of October. Parking and admission are free.

— Elyse Carmosino

Courtesy photo.