COVID has canceled yet another beloved Humboldt tradition: Fortuna’s Apple Harvest Festival, a trusty annual celebration of falltime for the Friendly City.
The festival, which is usually held the first weekend of October, was canceled last year, too. “[We were] trying to weigh all the options: keeping everyone safe vs having a fun family festival,” Drew Clendenen of Clendenen’s Cider Works told the Outpost. They’ve twice opted for the safe route.
The Apple Harvest Festival began in 1985 as a simple celebration of Clendenen’s Cider Works’ 75th anniversary, a family business spanning generations of apple growing, picking, pressing and vinegar-making. The orchard has more than 25 varieties of apples, according to their website.
“When they wanted to do it a second year, grandma Carol said, ‘Why don’t we call it the Apple Harvest Festival?’” Clendenen said. By the early ’90s, the Fortuna Chamber of Commerce hopped on the harvest train and helped initiate growth to the celebration it is today (or would be, if it weren’t for COVID): a citywide event featuring free hayrides that cart locals around town, stopping at Clendenen’s Cider Works, a downtown street fair, Rohner Park, Strongs Creek Plaza and the Fortuna Volunteer Fire Department, which each have some kind of attraction running for their patrons.
Though none of that fun will be happening this year, you can still honor apples, if you like, by buying ‘em local and catching a virtual hayride courtesy of the Clendenens and videographer John Graves. Created in lieu of last year’s apple festival, short videos posted to the business’s website take viewers through the family’s beautiful orchard, which you can still see here.
Clendenen’s Cider Works has fared all right through the pandemic. Like many local businesses, they’ve met some labor challenges but have “lucked out” with recent hires, Clendenen said. Beyond that, “people have an interest in purchasing local food. That’s helped us to continue to operate.”
That said, Clendenen’s Cider Works is eager to reconnect with their community when safety allows. “We are optimistic that we’ll be able to hold [the festival] next year,” Clendenen said.
We hope so, too.