Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Graves Mountain Lodge Apple Harvest Festival

October with its beautiful bright crisp days, vibrant leaves and especially, fresh crunchy apples. Graves Mountain Lodge in Syria, VA have their Apple Harvest Festival throughout the month and I went down on Saturday to meet some friends and enjoy the scene. And buy some apples.
The Lodge first opened in 1965 and is known for its home cooked food and hospitality served by by 3 generations of the Graves family. I had no idea that they grew peaches as well as apples, so I shall be back next summer for those.
The place was packed but extremely well organized. So many vehicles were lining up to find parking that I thought I would miss my friends but within 5 minutes I was parked in a field and walking to cross the road. I was so engrossed in readying my camera that as I crossed over to the entrance I was obviously moving too slow and an elderly man directing the traffic called out, "C'mon on ma'am, hustle along!" I looked up, startled, and was rendered completely speechless, so I nodded and hustled along. I'd never been asked to hustle before and I grinned as I marched forward.
One of the first things I realized as I entered the festivities was that there was no cell phone reception, and this was a good thing, judging by people's faces as they socialized with each other. Everyone was very friendly and we spent a lot of time chatting with vendors and visitors.
I loved these Halloween gourds.
Apple butter is being made here, and it takes 14 hours of stirring. Yes, 14 hours.
Along the side of the pumpkin patch were huge bins of apples. There were also apple orchards across the road but we were told that they had been mostly picked clean. This family had filled up their boxes from the bins and stacked them on carts, also provided by the farm. The apples were excellent value, a large bag for $5 or a box for $14. These folks come every year and share out their goodies with neighbors and their kid's teachers.
I was getting a little hungry with all the wonderful smells permeating throughout the crowds. I'd never seen pork rinds cooked before but I was here for the apples so I found a vendor making fresh apple butter donuts and fried apple slices. I had a serving of both, lightly sprinkled with sugar. Unfortunately I enjoyed them so much that I completely forgot to take a photo of them close up but believe me, they were delicious. I'd never had fried apple slices before but I may do these for Thanksgiving.
There were many local craft vendors here to tempt visitors with their delightful homemade Halloween and Christmas decorations and other wonderful creations.
The music was supplied throughout the day by various bluegrass bands who proved to be very popular. Most people brought their own chairs and were set up in front of the stage with their food and drink.
There were many photos being taken here. This cute little chap in his orange striped shirt didn't want to be particularly accommodating for his parents but I'm sure they still managed to get great shots.
A couple of white tents were set up displaying Civil War memorabilia. A man was cooking potatoes and onions on his fire and I smiled as I noticed a few people approached him licking their lips, attracted by the aroma.
After a few hours I left with a bag of apples, apple butter and various preserves and drove back through the winding country roads enjoying the autumnal colors, and wishing after half an hour or so that I'd got some more of those apple butter donuts and fried apples to go; they were enough on their own to warrant a return trip next year.
There were plenty of pretty barns and Old Rag Mountain, the pinnacle for all avid hikers in the region, loomed above me. One day I'll have to climb this again, it's a fantastic view from the top.
I passed this scales shed, assuming it weighed livestock.
I stopped a few more times to snap a photo of something that caught my eye but this graveyard was a wonderful find that made me laugh out loud. How delightful to find such a whimsical display amongst the gravestones!

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