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Apple Harvest Festival

When E.C. Clendenen purchased his five-acre farm in 1905 and began making cider four years later, he had no idea he'd set in motion a chain of events that would bring a street fair, tractor hay rides and thousands of people to Fortuna on a Saturday in every October to spend the day relishing in all things apple.

And in 1984, when Clif Clendenen and his parents celebrated the 75th anniversary of the business (in the pictures on this page), they still were not aware of this same unfolding of events.

So many people had such a good time that no one wanted to wait another 75 years for a repeat event. Clif said local optometrist Alan French approached him and his family about continuing the event. French didn’t have much convincing to do.

"We had so many people in the store buying apples and cider, and it was such good advertising," Clif recalled. "But a 76th anniversary party sounded sort of lame. So my mom, Carol, said "Why not call it the Apple Harvest Festival?" We shifted the focus from the age of the business to marketing apples," and Fortuna's city-wide Apple Harvest Festival was born. The 2009 festival was unique since it was the 25th Annual Apple Harvest Festival and also the 100th anniversary of the Clendenen Cider Works business.

The festival has grown from its roots as an apple harvest festival to an event that brings the community together, a city-wide combination farm event, historical celebration and family fun day. "This thing is run entirely by business owners volunteering their time," said David Reed, former FBID director. "We have about 60 central volunteers that put this together and really make it happen. This event is primarily run by business owners and their employees."

Although the festival centers around the apple industry and is sponsored by businesses, the focus of the festival is to pay homage to the community that supports the businesses, Reed said. Reed mentioned Bill Hummel, one of the most loyal volunteers, for his organization of the transportation system. "I do it because of the community service," Hummel said. "I am a part of the community here, and it is a good thing to do. I am retired, but I keep doing it."

Hummel said that each of the past years, he and his brother Bill have gathered at least a dozen tractors and trailers from local farmers, ranchers, schools and businesses to use in the increasingly popular hay wagons. After convincing the owners to allow them to borrow the tractors and wagons, they must inspect, repair and put a gate around each of the trailers for safety.

Each of the 14 wagons will run a course between downtown Fortuna, Rohner Park, Strong's Creek Shopping Plaza, Redwood Village Shopping Center and Clendenen's. 

Clif Clendenen is the grandson of C.E. Clendenen and the manager of Clendenen’s Cider Works. Clendenen said that approximately 25 people volunteer at Clendenen's, which will feature hay wagon rides through the orchard, an apple wood barbecue and performances by the historic Scotia Band and the country swing band Falling Rocks. According to Clendenen, "This is an opportunity to showcase our operation here, and it is a thank you to the community that supports us."

Marilyn and Dough Strehl, of Strehl's Family Shoes and Repair, have been involved in the festival since it merged with the downtown street sale, Marilyn said. "After the apple festival got going, it became apparent that it would be best to have the two events on the same day."

Marilyn is the treasurer of the Fortuna Downtown Merchants Association, which is also involved in many other street sales and holidays. The family-fun aspect of the festival is especially appropriate to the event, Marilyn said, which helps to preserve the community. "It makes you feel good to come here; we have an excellent community. It is important for us to keep the hometown atmosphere."

 
     
 

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