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September 14, 2004 > Garin Park Apple Festival

Garin Park Apple Festival

by Veronica Velasquez

Johnny Appleseed would be delighted. He would, in fact, be ecstatic over the vision of many, many apple orchards, stretching as far as the eye can see. He would behold with wonder the cornucopia baskets overflowing with the rich scents, colors, and flavors of this luscious fruit just waiting to be enjoyed.

To be sure, Mr. Appleseed would probably be confused by a parking lot full of cars and people dressed in strange clothes wandering about, but the sight of the trees bursting with the tempting apples would overwhelm these minor distractions.

The Garin Park Apple Festival is back for its 14th year.

Garin/Dry Creek Pioneer Park, located in the Hayward Hills, is part of the East Bay Regional Parks system. It is actually two parks joined together, and is unique for its antique apple orchard and barn on its premises.

Kristina Parkison, a naturalist at the Coyote Hills Visitor's Center, has helped to coordinate the festival for several years.

"Garin was an old working ranch, back in the 1800's," Parkison said. "September is California History month, and the Apple Festival was started up to celebrate the history of the pioneers and the ranch."

The festival features a tour of the barn and orchards, apple tasting, cider pressing, children's crafts, storytelling, and old-fashioned games, such as tug o' war and kick-the-can. There will be a blacksmith forging demonstration, a kitchen gadgets expo and real farming equipment is always on display. The park's gift shop will have several apple-themed items for sale, such as antique toys and crafts with apple motifs.

"We have wooden horseshoe sets, sky tops, vintage 'Old Maid' cards, and old-fashioned dominoes," said Sue Von Ritter, a senior office assistant at Coyote Hills.

Von Ritter has run the gift shop at the Apple Festival for several years and will be enjoying the festivities from her post once again this year. "I like the (square) dancing," she said. "This will be my eighth year. I also get out and taste all the apples."

There are many varieties of apples at the ranch that are not featured in the local grocery stores, or even at farmers' markets. Back in 1978, when Garin Park was opened, an antique apple orchardist, Emmel Lindquist managed to procure several kinds of apple crops the likes of which are largely unknown to most people. Lindquist was dedicated to the project, and insisted on putting together the eclectic collection, so that others could experience the tempting fruits that otherwise would never be tasted.

Jan Southworth, a naturalist at the Coyote Hills Visitor Center, explained the reason that these treasures have gone undiscovered by many. "Some of the fruit is not widely sold in grocery stores for different reasons, such as some types that bruise easily, or some that don't travel well because they are prone to infestations."

Folks will have a chance to sample the exotic orbs, which bear such names as Alcatraz, Anarka, Dutchess Mignon, Fozwhelp, and Hudson's Golden Gem. Slices of the delicious fruit will be available for sampling, and there will be several varieties of apple juices to sip as well.

"The taste and the texture of these little-known apples are so much better to those you find in the grocery store," Southworth said.

"Every year at the festival, they let people wander around and collect barrels of apples," said Von Ritter. "This'll be my eighth year, and it's still a lot of fun."

Southworth reminisced about the old-fashioned pioneer games that are featured every year. "They play games like kick-the-can and tug o' war," she said. :"The losing team gets splashed with water, and since the weather is usually hot, the players tend to want to lose."

Originally, tug o' war, which was enjoyed by 19th century pioneer families, was played across the creek bed, so that the losers ended up taking a sudden dip in Dry Creek itself. Talk about good, clean fun.

In past years, the festival has boasted an array of activities, such as Dutch apple crisp-making, ice-cream-making, and a live folk music trio that played tunes so infectious that the crowd cannot refrain from stomping around the barnyard in a joyous square dance.

"The dancing's a riot," said Von Ritter. "Some people come back every year to square dance."

"The kids always manage to get their parents out there to dance," recalled Sam Pica, a student office assistant at the Visitor's Center. "It's a lot of fun."

Unfortunately, due to budget cuts this year, some of these activities will not be possible. There will, however, be a musician present to play folk tunes, so what's to stop festival goers from busting a move on the barnyard floor? Come on, all the cool kids are doing it.

The Apple Festival will take place on Saturday, September 25th, from 12 noon to 4 p.m. Garin Park is located at 1320 Garin Avenue off Mission Boulevard just south of Industrial Parkway. The event is free, and parking is $4. For more information, go to

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