One of Hood River County’s most popular agricultural festivals marks its 10th year this weekend.
Gravenstein Days is back, throughout the Hood River Valley Fruit Loop. Plenty of fruit will be available, whole or in pies, sauces and other variations, but the late-summer festival focuses on the increasingly scarce Gravenstein.
“Gravenstein Apple Days is the perfect time to find them and enjoy a weekend of country food, fun, entertainment and attractions for the whole family,” said Kaye White, Fruit Loop director.
White said this is the perfect time to enjoy a taste of the flavorful Gravenstein; the variety is considered by many as the best for pies, applesauce and desserts, as well as a tart and tasty eating apple.
But the Gravenstein season is early and short, and Gravenstein lovers often arrive too late in the harvest to enjoy them, according to White.
Participating fruit stands all along the Hood River Valley’s famous Fruit Loop will have an abundance of Gravensteins for sale, as well as other popular early fall fruit and fresh garden produce, cold apple cider, pies and gourmet treats. Special activities add to the celebration this weekend. The Dee Fire Department will host an old-fashioned country barbecue from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday at the Dee Fire Station, 5235 Lost Lake Rd. Volunteer firefighters serve up hot barbecued roast beef sandwiches or kielbasa hot dogs with side dishes, apple crisp, and tea, coffee or lemonade.
Food is also the draw at Apple Valley Country Store, 2363 Tucker Road, where apple dumplings and pies — especially Gravenstein apple pies — are the centerpiece of a “Gravenstein Pie & Ice Cream Social.” Whole pies are available to take home.
Wine enthusiasts will want to be sure to visit Hood River Vineyards, 4693 Westwood Dr., for their annual Gravenstein Days Open House with free wine and cider tasting, light hors d’ouevres, Gravenstein treats and special discounts. Flerchinger Vineyards, 4200 Post Canyon Rd., will also be celebrating with an open house, cheese and crackers, free wine tasting and special case discounts. This is a great opportunity to meet the winemakers and try their new releases.
Take an hourlong orchard tour/hayride of Kiyokawa Family Orchards, 8129 Clear Creek Road, growers of 60 varieties of apples and pears on over 100 acres in Parkdale. Hosted by Randy Kiyokawa, the tour describes their family history as third generation Japanese-American farmers and provides a historical overview of orcharding in the Hood River Valley. Pick your own Gravenstein, Gingergold or Sansa apples. See their 90-year-old Gravenstein Apple tree that produces nearly a ton of fruit all by itself. Tours are $7.50 per person and leave each hour.
Visitors to Draper’s Farm, 6200 Highway 35, can find a variety of u-pick produce and try their own special blend of apple cider. Kids will also enjoy the free pony rides and farm animals.
A full line-up of activities for kids of all ages awaits visitors to Rasmussen Farms, 3020 Thomsen Road — from squash bowling to a treasure hunt in the flower and vegetable gardens. Enjoy live music and the popular pie walk from 1 to 3 p.m. both days. The corn maze opens this weekend for the fall season.
McCurdy Farms will be serving the icy cold apple cider slushies and previewing the line of Clear Creek Distillery’s pear-in-a-bottle eau-de-vie, grown in their Bartlett pear orchard.
For more information about Gravenstein Apple Days, or for a copy of the Hood River County Fruit Loop Map, contact the Fruit Loop at 1-888-771-7327. The Fruit Loop website is www.hoodriverfruitloop.com.