It takes up to 10 years to grow a fully-producing apple tree from a seed.

The Onalaska Apple Harvest Festival celebrated its 11th anniversary this past weekend and it is ripening into one of the top must-go-to events for all of Lewis County, offering a small, hometown atmosphere packed with everything from apple cider pressing, an apple pie eating contest and parade (with Grand Marshals Pete and Lulamae Deyoung).

Although the weather forecast had organizers on edge, the air was warm and the clouds sparse for the weekend.

“The weather, we had our fingers crossed all week,” said organizer Cathy Murphy with the parent organization Onalaska Alliance, adding she was pleased about the growth of the festival over the years. “We give people a festival that people want to come back to. That’s our strategy. We want to show people the amazing community we have.”

Although it retains a rural, close-knit community feel, with upwards of 4,000 people attending on Saturday alone, the small town was hopping with activities.

The festival hit a high note Saturday evening with a poetry reading and discussion by Washington State Poet Laureate Claudia Castro Luna at The Mason Jar, along with original poetry performed by Onalaska High School students. This was followed Sunday by a homestead farm tour and a farm to table dinner featuring the cuisine of McMenamins Olympic Club Head Chef Donnie Stancil accompanied by fiddler Jim Blair.

Between bingo kicking off the event on Thursday and the Sunday dinner at The Mason Jar, you could have entered a cornhole tournament or a 5K run, attended the Royal Court Coronation, listened to live music, perused the many vendors and the food court (the Trump Burger was a hit — advertised as “no vegetables, a little ham and cheese, only $5”), taken in a quilt show and an all-church service, and even caught a giant trout or taken a horse ride.

Raelee Holmes, 15, was crowned the Apple Harvest Festival Queen Friday night. 

“It’s fun,” she said while reigning from her parade float. “I like being in the parade and being to smile at everyone.”

Chloe Torres, 8, was part of the Royalty Court as Lil Miss Apple Harvest. She was proud wearing her Lil Miss Apple Harvest sash, and her mom boasted Chloe sold 300 apples as part of the Royalty Court competition. Chloe said the competition was daunting, but she loved the parade.

“It was a little bit scary and exciting, and I felt a little bit sick,” she said with a big smile.


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