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APPLE TIME: There's lots of slices to Bayfield's annual event

Apples galore are on tap this weekend as part of Bayfield’s Apple Festival. Bayfield Chamber of Commerce and Business Burea1 / 3
The Sept. 27, 1962, edition of the News Tribune announced the first Apple Festival in Bayfield. It was a one-day, Sunday affair that drew about 5,000 people on Sept. 30, 1962. Today, more than 60,000 people are expected to visit today through Sunday. 2 / 3
Candied apples are on tap this weekend as part of Bayfield’s Apple Festival. Bayfield Chamber of Commerce and Business Bureau3 / 3

Of course, the apples are local, but the organizers of this weekend’s Bayfield Apple Festival want to amplify that it’s not just the fruit that comes from the Wisconsin playground. Kelley Linehan, the marketing manager for the Bayfield Chamber and Visitor Bureau, said the focus this year is on encouraging vendors of all stripes to sell “locally sourced foods.”

That’s right up the alley for Patty and Dave Holman, owners of The Fat Radish, a fresh market and deli that opened in early July. They plan to hawk tacos during the festival, using whitefish from Lake Superior and cabbage from area gardens.

“It’s been very good,” Patty Holman said of business so far in the popular tourist destination. She previously worked in food service at a school for 10 years where students planted their own gardens and learned the value of growing your own food.

“It’s a passion of mine,” she said of her locavore tendencies. There are vegan and gluten-free options at the deli, which can be found across the street from the grandstand stage on Rittenhouse Avenue.

Artistic touch

The poster for the festival this year has gone professional but remains local.

It was created on commission by Tonja Sell. In past years, there has been a public contest to decide on the poster. Part of Sell’s finished work dons the official button for the festival as well.

Sell creates and teaches art out of Karlyn’s Gallery in nearby Washburn. She also teaches at the Duluth Art Institute and Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College.

Linehan said the goal was to end up with a poster that “honors both the apple and the apple producers, with a nod to the history of the orchards of the Bayfield Peninsula,” she said. “The work is also meant to showcase the diversity of agricultural offerings and celebrate the harvest season here.”

Posters and buttons will be part of the merchandise for sale in the chamber’s booth in downtown Bayfield. There will also be a limited tote bag with the poster art on it.

How ’bout dem apples

Fred Erickson said he is enjoying his “best crop in 10 years” at Erickson Orchard and Country Store. That’s the word throughout the region this year.

Erickson said there wasn’t as much daily heat stress on the trees and plenty of moisture during the summer coupled with cool nights.

“Perfect growing year,” he said.

“A bumper crop,” Linehan said of her survey of the 14 orchards and farms that surround Bayfield.

Erickson called his Courtlands “phenomenal” and said all of the apples are large in size.

He said he’s ready for the invasion of festival goers. “The cider is flowing,” he said.

Like many of the other orchards, Erickson’s will host food vendors, hay rides, live music and other entertainment all weekend.


Fred Erickson is the next generation of Ericksons to take over the orchard started by grandfather Jim, who he says still stands by his story of how the Apple Festival got started. Jim Erickson and Julian Nelson are the only two survivors of the original group that kick-started the festival in 1962. They will ride in the Grand Parade on Sunday. Jim is 84, and Julian is 98.

According to the Bayfield Bayfield Chamber of Commerce & Visitor Bureau, Nelson recalled that as the group put their plans together for the first festival, at Greunke’s Restaurant, a reporter from a Duluth television station overheard them. Nelson said the turnout of 5,000 people was helped by some free advertising from the station.

Here’s Jim’s account about the start of the festival from a 2001 News Tribune story:

There’s good-natured debate in town over the festival’s origins. Third-generation apple grower Jim Erickson claims it all started over a flat tire.

His flat tire.

He was traveling over the old Interstate Bridge from Superior to Duluth with a truckload of apples bound for market in North Dakota. That’s what Bayfield’s apple growers did in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Erickson said. They sold their apples west.

He managed to nurse his truck into West Duluth, where he waited for a spare to be driven up from home. He didn’t wait long before someone stopped to ask about his fruit. Then, someone else stopped. Before long, Erickson had sold 25 bushels of apples out of the back of the truck, and he started wondering: “Just why are we driving all the way to the Dakotas to sell our goods?”

Back home, he raised the question with others. What about the Duluth market, they asked themselves. How about a community festival to bring customers from Duluth and elsewhere to the orchards? It had to beat trying to take the orchards to them.

Erickson said there were so many cars passing through Washburn to get there, the sheriff felt obliged to follow the motorcade up the Bayfield Peninsula, just to see what was going on. He wound up being recruited to direct and control traffic.

“It’s gotten to be a little hectic now, and it’s a whole lot of work getting ready, but, what the heck,” Erickson said. “When you’re up to your knees in snow the whole rest of the winter, you forget all about how nuts it is.”

More than 10 times the amount of original visitors now come to the festival that is celebrating its 53rd year. If you go, expect to be one among 60,000.

53rd Annual Bayfield Apple Festival

Today through Sunday

Hailed as the “Best Festival in Wisconsin” by Wisconsin Trails Magazine and one of the “10 Best Specialty Food Festivals in the Nation” by national newspaper USA Today, the annual Apple Festival is a celebration of the autumn harvest and Bayfield’s agricultural heritage. But you already knew all that.

There are 14 orchards and farms around Bayfield and most will be having their own lineup of events as people are shuttled by free bus from downtown, where there will be an ongoing carnival, live entertainment at taverns and eateries, and a fish fry Saturday afternoon followed by a dance.

Other ongoing events include cruises to the Apostle Islands, apple dipping, cemetery walks, food vendors and businesses open for shopping.


9 a.m.-5 p.m.: Library book sale

11:30 a.m.: Bayfield High School Marching Band performance, Rittenhouse Avenue

Noon: Opening ceremony, grandstand stage

Noon-2 p.m.: Big Top Chautauqua’s Blue Canvas Orchestra performance, grandstand stage

2-5 p.m.: Native Expressions drum and dance troupe, First Street and Rittenhouse Avenue

3-5 p.m.: More from the orchestra

7-9 p.m.: Acoustic music on the deck, Bayfield Inn

9 p.m.-1 a.m. Music from The Dweebs, Legendary Waters Resort & Casino in Red Cliff


9 a.m.-5 p.m.: Library book sale

9 a.m.: Peel Out 5K Trail Run; registration 8-845 at Mt. Ashwabay Recreation Area, 2 miles south of

Bayfield on Highway 13

10-11 a.m.: Pipes and Drums of Thunder Bay “wake up” concert, Port Superior Marina

11 a.m. to 1 p.m.: Blue Canvas Orchestra, grandstand stage

11 a.m. to 3 p.m.: Firemans’ Fish Fry, Bayfield Lakeside Pavilion

Noon, 2 p.m., 4 p.m.: Tours of Big Water Coffee Roasters

1-2 p.m.: Apple peeling contest, grandstand

1-5 p.m.: Native Expressions drum and dance troupe

2:30-4:30 p.m.: More orchestra

3-6 p.m.: Acoustic music on the deck, Bayfield Inn

6:45 p.m.: Apple Festival Queen procession begins at Old Rittenhouse Inn

7 p.m.: Queen coronation, Bayfield Lakeside Pavilion

8 p.m.: -midnight: Corey Carlson and Friends, Bayfield Lakeside Pavilion

9 p.m.: -1 a.m.: Music from Badge, casino


10 a.m-2 p.m.: Music from Warren Nelson, Isaac Wing House

11 a.m.-1 p.m.: Big Top Chautauqua’s Blue Canvas Orchestra performance, grandstand stage

1:15 p.m.: Introduction of 2014 Apple Dumpling Gang, grandstand

2-3:30: Grand Parade with mass band finale, Rittenhouse Avenue

3:30-5 p.m.: More from the orchestra

5 p.m.: Raffle drawing