Friday, October 01, 2010

Applefest on Foot

(News-Herald, September 30) New York City is, at all times, the city that never sleeps. Franklin is, at Applefest time, the city that never sits down (except to eat). I can’t think of any other holiday, however large or small, so totally devoted to tramping about on foot.
It is true that only feet really work. Every Applefest, you’ll find a handful of hardy humans trying to maneuver something wheeled, like a stroller or a shopping cart. Memo to those folks: you may be managing to get around, but you are not making any new friends.
It might be fun to try tooling through town on a segway, but I’m pretty sure that would end badly, and I’m doubly certain that there would be no place to park it when you wanted to get off and shop for classy cultural artifacts.
After years of trying to come into Franklin tourist style, I’ve very much enjoyed my decade of taking the shoeleather express uptown.
Mapquest tells me that it is almost exactly one mile from my front porch to the corner of 13th and Liberty. That’s an easily managed distance—I would gladly walk a mile for some Leonardo’s bread, some funnel cake, or a chance to look at some cool cars.
What’s perhaps odd is that I would not generally walk a mile to look at oddly painted scenes on roof slates, hand-dyed t-shirts, or hand carvings with an excess of character. But that is the magic of Applefest—set any one of the many tchotchke booths up on a corner and few people would bother to cross the street to see, but when you put a few hundred together and add a sense of occasion, it’s a special event that people will travel mile after mile to see.
Some folks scoff at the notion of Venangoland as a tourist destination, but Applefest demonstrates everything you need to know about how it works. Beautiful setting plus hundreds of attractions plus a tireless body of promoters and supporters equals a destination that people hate to miss.
Is it the same thing year after year? I don’t really think so. There’s something comfy about the many repeat attractions, both of the vending and performing variety, but at the same time much of each year’s special flavor comes out of the unique and unpredictable blend of people that you meet. Applefest really is homecoming in Franklin, and the surprises and treats that come with the meeting of returnees, visitors and residents is what makes Applefest so much fun.
If that’s not enough variety for you, you can always change up your personal approach to mass of artforms and lifeforms in the heart of Franklin. Over the years I’ve mostly gone stag to the Fall Apple Classic. On the occasions that I traveled with my kids, we’d usually separate with agreement to meet again sometime within the next forty-eight hours (my family represents the full range of Applefestering enjoyment—my daughter could stay there all day and my son could stay there all of ten minutes).
But this year I plan to spend some of my Applefenestration time with a date, and I’m wondering exactly how one makes date time out of the Apple-y onslaught.
Walking through the main boothal area while holding hands is at best mean and at worst asking for trouble. I suppose some of it could be handled like a sort of window-shopping date, and there are obvious date activities available (we plan, of course, to see Peter Pan at the Barrow). But a romantic stroll by the kettle corn? Dancing to the strains of the FHS marching band? Buying special mementos which we then carry around until the plastic bagstraps are chewing their way through our tired fingers?
Is there couples marketing being done for marketing? If there is, I’ve missed it. If there isn’t, someone needs to get on it because we’re missing a market niche, and I’m pretty sure that with a little effort we could squeeze forty or fifty more bodies into downtown Franklin. In the meantime, I have some planning to do, starting out with limbering up my walking shoes.
For those of you who dread this time every year—lighten up. It’s a big party, full of music and toys and all kinds of great people, and it’s all right here in our back (and front and side) yard. Things will be back to beautiful fall normal soon enough; right now, relax and enjoy!

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