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Festival showcases wine culture of upstate NY


The 34th Annual Ithaca Apple Harvest Festival, or “Applefest” to locals, took place from Sept. 30 to Oct. 2 in the Ithaca Commons, a pedestrian mall in the heart of Downtown Ithaca.

Thousand Islands Winery is one of the largest wineries in upstate New York. Photo Credit: Ramya Vijayagopal

Local artisans showcased their wares along North Cayuga street, with everything from crocheted crop tops to colorful dreamcatchers and handmade jewelry. West State Street featured food stalls commonly found in county fairs, with foods such as funnel cake, hot dogs and deep fried cookies, while South Cayuga Street had more varied foods such as Indian, Thai and Trinidadian cuisines. The main stretch of the Commons was crowded with people taking in the brisk October air as they munched on candied apples and waited in line for apple cider donuts.

Wineries, cideries and breweries in the upstate New York region use festivals such as Applefest to market their products usually by offering tastings, some for free and others requesting a dollar for a flight of four brews. Upstate New York has gained national attention and recognition for its wineries, and wine and beverage businesses have become a vital part of the culture of upstate New York.

Howard Parker, of Thousand Islands Winery, said the festival helps local businesses market their wares and increases sales.

“Marketing is how any business grows and coming to festivals like this, keeping your name out there is what makes you grow,” Parker said.

Applefest attracts many businesses from upstate New York, apart from local wineries. One of these is Thousand Islands Winery. The winery is located 26 miles outside of Watertown, NY. The winery is 13 years old and one of the largest wineries in upstate New York.

“We produce 25 different types of wine,” Parker said.

Another winery, Ashley Lynn Winery, has been coming to the Apple Harvest Festival for 10 years. Employee Dustin McFarlane said festivals like the Apple Harvest Festival are an integral part of the culture of upstate New York.

“People really like the products so we come year after year,” McFarlane said. “[Applefest is] oriented around the family, so that’s always good. I remember being a kid and we always used to have Fall Fest and other events and we really don’t have those anymore.”

Ashley Lynn Winery began in 1999 in Mexico, NY, and moved to Waterloo three years ago. It is located less than an hour from 40 minutes north of Syracuse.

Bacchus Brewing Company was started in 2012 by an Ithaca College alumnus. Photo Credit: Ramya Vijayagopal

“We like coming down, we see regular customers from previous years,” McFarlane said.

Ithaca College alumnus and brewmaster Richie Shallcross opened his own brewery, Bacchus Brewing Company, after graduation.

“I, for the last four and a half years, have designed all the beers, come up with the recipes, done the marketing and pretty much run the business myself,” Shallcross said.

The facility is located in Dryden and this was the brewery’s fourth year coming to Applefest.

Eve’s Cidery is located in Van Etten, NY, half an hour south of Ithaca. Photo Credit: Ramya Vijayagopal

Shallcross said he comes to all of Ithaca’s events and festivals because Ithaca is the brewery’s home market.

“They’re a great part of the city, everybody looks forward to them and they’re always fun,” Shallcross said.

Eve’s Cidery was opened by Autumn Stoscheck when she was 21 years old, funded by money saved from waitressing. Stoscheck was the youngest New Yorker to hold a liquor license, according to an employee. The cidery is located in Van Etten, NY, half an hour south of Ithaca. Employee Celia Bakaitis said she prefers working in the cidery to festivals because the crowds are much bigger at festivals.

Parker said festivals such as Applefest are important to the area’s culture and to its residents. The festival also provides a good space to showcase the wine culture of upstate New York, and how that intersection benefits both business owners and consumers.

“New York likes to party,” Parker said.

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