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APPLE FESTIVAL HOPES TO FEATURE CORE PRODUCT WITH FREE SAMPLES

An apple a day may be more than just an old saying at Niagara's Country Apple Festival scheduled for 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 7-8 at The Niagara County Fairgrounds.

"I hope to get growers to donate fruit right out of the orchards so that we can hand out samples to every person that walks into the festival," said Jim Bitner, chairman of the Growers Committee and a partner in Singer Farms of Appleton.

Retailers will be setting up Farm Market displays combining apples with other merchandise.

Billed as one of the premier agri-tourism events in Western New York, the festival is entering its eighth year.

"We'll probably have upwards of a dozen farm markets there with fresh produce," said event coordinator Donna Landers of the Eastern Niagara Chamber of Commerce.

The festival was developed not only to recognize the apple growers but also to help promote the farm market community and the agricultural community in Niagara County, Landers said. "The markets bring a diversity of products, which is great," she said. "Our Farm Markets, which are scattered throughout the grounds will have a variety of produce."

"There are always a fair number of farm markets there, and I'm sure it will be the same this year," Bitner said. "As long as there is enough there for all the customers and enough variety of fruit, that's what matters."

Visitors to the festival can also get information on the many farm markets in Niagara County from the Farm Market Information Center, which will have brochures on hand as well as information on New York State apples.

Bitner hopes some growers volunteer to help hand out apples.

"You always get questions like 'What variety is this?' What ever happened to that old variety?' " he said. "We would like to have a grower there all the time to answer these questions."

The Apple Country Festival falls at the busiest time for apple growers.

"Donating the apples is the easy part," he said. "This is the middle of apple harvest. The problem we have is getting off the farm but if we can spread the work around for a few hours we can get the job done. This is a great thing for the area but it can be difficult to get the growers to put time in this time of year. The second half of September and all of October we're running full tilt."

Exposure at the Apple Festival can result in more customers for area apple retailers.

Growers interested in participating in the Apple Festival may contact Bitner at 778-7330 or Donna Landers at 433-3828.

Niagara County's Apple Festival is sponsored by the Eastern Niagara Chamber of Commerce, Mayer Brothers Apple Products, New York Apple Association, Tops Markets and Greater Niagara Newspapers.

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