Apple Fest Returns as ‘Core’ Part of Bayfield for Orchards, Thousands of Fans

The 59th Festival wrapped up with the parade of 33 floats and attractions through Downtown.

BAYFIELD, Wis.- Thousands packed the streets of Bayfield for Apple Fest, as the Northern Wisconsin tradition of almost 60 years returned this weekend after the pandemic sidelined all the fun last year.

It was apples, to apples, to apples as far as the eye could see, as the festival wrapped up Sunday. “They have apple donuts, apple pies,” said one attendee.

“We have caramel apples and sliced caramel apples,” said Madison Gingras, working the Apple Hill Orchard stand.

“I typically don’t eat caramel apples but here I felt like it was necessary, had to happen,” Evan Jones of Duluth said.

It seems every year, people present the red and green fruit in unique ways. “The Wapple!” said Jones.

“It’s like a, it’s like a waffle apple, I don’t know but I saw a big “Wapple” sign and so I was just like that’s cool, Wapple,” he said. “Say that 10 times fast!”

Despite the name Apple Fest, apples weren’t the only things that brought people, and their appetites, back to the festival.

“Right now we’re doing turkey legs, pulled pork sandwiches, roasted sweet corn,” Anna Rabideaux said.

Family-owned Rabideaux Orchard has been bringing their apples and other goodies for almost three decades. “Lot of repeat customers from over the 25 years that we’ve been doing this,” said Anna,

“Bayfield’s a small town but you get mom and pop businesses and they bank on having Apple Fest every year,” she said. “So it feels good to do this for the small businesses and for our customers.”

The festival was absent from the small town last year due to the pandemic. While some traditions like the carnival and pie-eating were left out due to COVID safety concerns, it didn’t take away from the excitement of getting back to the tradition.

“We didn’t know if things were going to be a big impact because of COVID,” said Gingras. We weren’t, just really going to know what to expect based on the crowd and just how everything was going to work out. But it feels good to be back!”

Apple Fest has been a staple of the northern Wisconsin town for almost 60 years.

Anna Novak keeps track of the more than 50 Apple Fests she’s been to — with pins on her hat. “They are some, I can’t fit them all on here.”

“My earliest one is 1976 my pin, I’m not sure what year they started pins. But I graduated high school in ’75 and I came up for the ’76 one, so,” she said. “Many years, I’ve seen it evolve.”

Meanwhile, younger seeds came back to the orchard to relive some old memories – like Jones with his friend Karie Lenard.

“Both of us have, we were here a long time ago when we were little with our family,” said Lenard. But we haven’t been here in a long time. Been a good 10 years.”

On Sunday the streets came alive to watch area high school bands, local pageant princesses, and even some zany floats parade through downtown.

And of course, being Apple Fest, it wasn’t just candy being handed out – but apples too!

Adults had a blast at the parade and festival and for their kids, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

“I love Apple Fest, wouldn’t miss it for the world,” Novak said. “My family comes here, it’s almost like our Christmas.”

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