A Bounty of Pre-Thanksgiving Fun
PHILLIPSTON -- Share and taste New England’s bounty at Red Apple Farm this weekend at its annual Thanksgiving Harvest Festival.
The festival will be Saturday and Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., at the farm, 455 Highland Ave.
“Anyone can come and have a beer, support vendors and local food pantries -- how can you go wrong?” said Al Rose, owner of the Red Apple Farm.
Admission is $2, but you’ll get half off if you bring a nonperishable food donation.
“We quickly realized, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, to make sure to have a giving component,” Rose said. “We partnered right from the beginning with local food pantries. It’s our mission to encourage everyone to give food items.”
The food collected will be given to the Gardner Community Action Committee on Saturday and the Templeton Food Pantry on Sunday. Along with the $1 admission, volunteers will be giving out tickets to those who bring in food for chances to win items from a raffle, such as skybox lift tickets and rentals offered by Wachusett Mountain.
The festival began in 2001 and has grown over the years to some degree, but its main focus -- shopping local for everything you might need for your Thanksgiving table -- has never changed. From turkeys to cranberries to apple pies, there will be staples to create your entire Thanksgiving meal.
“Even the fact that you can be at your Thanksgiving table and say everything on there has touched some corner of our local area is great,” Rose said.
There will also be music, vendors, food and drinks, a living-history Civil War encampment and more.
“All musicians on both days are individuals or groups of folks who perform out of the kindness and generosity of their hearts,” Rose said. “We give them a basket of wares from all the vendors as a thank-you. We’re all here in the spirit of the holiday.”
He said that due to the time of the year, the festival has seen all kinds of weather in the past, so they make sure to have a large indoor component. The farm store will be open and heated, along with The Brew Barn. There will also be outdoor fireplaces and, new this year, a large heated tent where the vendors and music will be situated.
“We just wanted to make sure it’s as comfortable as possible, no matter what the weather brought,” he said.
The Harvest X-Games will provide entertainment for the weekend, with games focused on the premise of Old World farming skills.
“If I was smart, I’d make it so they do work that needs to be done,” Rose said with a laugh.
There will be a hay-bale tossing competition from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., both days; an archery shoot for all ages and abilities, with a chance to win a fresh turkey from Jordan’s Turkeys; a catapult pumpkin launch; a home-brew and hard-cider competition; and the Iron Farmer Challenge.
“We used to a field, forest and orchard 5K, but this year it morphed into something more in the spirit of the festival and we called it Iron Farmer,” Rose said.
There will be no 5K; instead competitors will run about 2 miles on a trail through the woods and circle back to complete various farm tasks, including jumping over bales of hay or carrying a crate of apples. It’s organized by Crossfit and Fitness Concept, and features competitive and noncompetitive heats.
“It’s equally fun for spectators because these are real farm challenges that people can test their farm skills or strengths at,” he said.
Various events cost an extra dollar or two, but everything raised will be donated to the food pantries.
“We’ve had countless pounds collected -- we never really calculate,” Rose said. “It’s all in the spirit of the holiday -- eating, getting family together and the community together and having a good time to celebrate the harvest and kick off the holiday season.”
For more information, see redapplefarm.com .
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