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Hendersonville Annual Celebrations

Updated: Apr 19

For the tranquil town of Hendersonville NC, historical tradition is a persistent component of contemporary life. Hendersonville is a small city of just over 15,000 people, nestled snugly between the rolling hills of North Carolina’s western Piedmont region and the soaring peaks of the Appalachian mountains.

Hendersonville’s historic downtown area is home to a rich local culture, featuring various annual celebrations which chronicle the city’s history. One such event is Hendersonville’s annual Street Dances, which began in 1918 upon the return of soldiers from World War One. The Street Dances have endured as a quintessential feature of the area’s heritage for over 100 years. Fiddles and banjos set the mood for a toe-tapping good time, as these summer dance celebrations are accompanied by traditional bluegrass mountain music which is performed by a live band.

Bluegrass mountain music is another lasting cultural mainstay of the city, and it can be found at various other annual events held in Hendersonville’s downtown area. The annual Rhythm and Brews concert series, which started in 2013, is another example of the prevalence of traditional bluegrass music in the area. These free outdoor concerts begin in July and run through October of each year. Although they are relatively new, the R&B concert series is a trademark event in the area, incorporating live bluegrass music, excellent food, and local beer, wine, and cider.

For the numerous events which characterize Hendersonville, perhaps the most prolific is the annual North Carolina Apple Festival. This four-day celebration is held in the heart of Hendersonville’s historic downtown area, featuring attractions such as apple breakfasts, arts and crafts, free entertainment, and more.

The event was started in April of 1947 to celebrate the first apple blossoms at the local orchards. The festival has since grown to symbolize the importance of the apple industry to both the town of Hendersonville and the wider Henderson County. North Carolina is the 7th largest apple producer in the United States, and Henderson County produces 85 percent of all apples grown in the state. In fact, Henderson County’s apple industry generates approximately $22 million annually.

While various other towns within the County have created their own versions of the Apple Festival over the years, Hendersonville was the first city to celebrate the County’s booming apple industry. September 4th of 2021 marked the 75th annual Apple Festival celebrated in Hendersonville, attracting thousands of visitors from across North Carolina.

One of the pillars of the festival is the Street Fair, which is held on downtown Hendersonville’s main street and takes up nearly nine blocks of the city. The Street Fair attracts over 200 local vendors, including quality arts and crafts vendors as well as those selling festival food. The Street Fair also gives festival-goers the chance to purchase apples from local growers or to purchase traditional apple products such as caramel apples and apple pies. The Apple Festival also includes apple recipe contests, apple taste testing, and live performances from local bluegrass bands.

The Apple Festival Ceremony, which takes place on the first day of celebrations, declares the festival as officially open and awards the “Apple Farmer of the Year”. The event is concluded with the annual King Apple Parade, which takes place on Labor Day each year. This sensational finale to the four-day event features professional floats, local fire trucks, youth groups, antique cars, and more, often attracting well over 60,000 individuals.

--Mollie Lund

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