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On the first Saturday in October there is usually an early fall mist in the morning air. Not exactly a fog, but a low-hanging mist that starts to lift shortly after sunrise.
As the mist begins to dissipate, a miracle arises like the legendary Brigadoon. White Tents start to appear, the smell of apples fills the air, and the crowds come. And more. And more.
Because on this day, this magical day, the village of Darlington (population 1,000) opens its doors to the entire Eastern Seaboard for the Darlington Apple Festival.
On a sunny day, some 70,000 people will visit Darlington. On a rainy day, as few as 40,000. And the famously anti-development citizens of Darlington (of whom I am one) say to the visitors, "please come to Darlington for today, and then please leave!"
The Apple Festival was started over 20 years ago as a fund-raiser for local churches and civic groups, and it maintains that character to this day. Between their own food stands, and the mandatory donations of commercial vendors, many of the local churches earn the lion's share of their operating budgets on this day.
In fact, a commercial food vendor is not even allowed to participate in the Darlington Apple Festival unless he donates about 20% of his day's gross sales to a local non-profit.
In one case, the Apple Festival had a signature food—the Apple Delite: a spiral-sliced apple served with warm caramel and whipped cream. The Apple Delite vendor, who was from out of town, had resisted the mandatory cash donation for years, and figured the Apple Delite was so important to the event that he was immune. But the event organizers finally enforced the rule, and the vendor was out on his ear. A local community center that provided after school services to latch-key children picked up the Apple Delite stand, taught themselves the particulars, and operate it to this day.
With off-site parking (and plenty of signs) and regular bus service to Shureville Road, the Apple Festival is a favorite for families through the area. Lots of wonderful food, plus great artists and wonderful crafts. Entertainment, children's areas and more. Mums from the Amish. And, of course, apples.
The Darlington Apple Festival is a day of magic. Give it a try and go and have lots of fun.