Day Trips

The Texas International Apple Festival in Medina will have plenty of free samples of homegrown apples

Apple Day
Apple Day (Photo By Gerald E. McLeod)

The Texas International Apple Festival in Medina will have plenty of free samples of homegrown apples. You will want to take a few of the fresh fruits home with you along with the great memories of one of Texas' best family-oriented festivals.

Every year on the last Saturday of July, the apple growers of the Texas Hill Country challenge the apple growers of foreign countries and other states to a contest to see who has the freshest fruit. The Texas growers know that it's a hollow dare. In July, when they're picking tree-ripe apples along the Medina River, other growers are waiting for the fall harvest.

Knowing they have the competition in the bag for the sweetest apples, the growers decided it was as good a time as any to throw a party to celebrate. You won't have any trouble finding the fiesta held at the Apple Festival Grounds in downtown Medina.

The festival offers a lot of activities packed under a grove of shade trees. More than 100 vendors selling everything from plants to quilts give the daylong event a fair atmosphere. Three stages keep the music coming all day. To keep everybody active, there are lots of rides, demonstrations, and games. And of course, there is lots of food. Especially foods made with apples. After all, this is the Apple Capital of Texas.

How the tiny village west of Bandera became known for its apple orchards is the story of two men's persistence in turning the rocky soil of the Hill Country into productive farmland. In a state better known for raising Longhorns and Herefords, growing apples almost seems out of place.

Baxter Adams planted the first experimental orchard of 1,000 trees on his Love Creek Ranch about 10 miles west of Medina in 1981 with the help of Loy Shreve, the local agriculture-extension agent. With a limited amount of tillable soil on his 2,000-acre former goat ranch, Adams had to find a crop that would offer a profitable harvest in a small amount of space.

Soon after moving to the scenic hills, Adams met Loy Shreve, the state horticulturist at the Texas A&M Experimental Lab in Uvalde. Shreve had seen in Eastern Europe dwarf apples trees growing in soil similar to that of the Texas Hill Country and thought the idea might take root in Bandera County. The dwarf apple trees produce full-sized fruit, but reach a height of only 5 or 6 feet and produce about 50 pounds per tree.

The Johnny Appleseed of Texas, Shreve, who passed away in 2002, also experimented with grafting commercial grapes to native rootstock and introducing other agricultural products to Texas. It was his work with the dwarf apple trees that was his most successful project.

A geologist by training, Baxter turned his weekend retreat into a second career when the oil business went bust in the late-1980s. He and his wife, Carol, have been tireless promoters of the apple business in Texas. There are now more than 350,000 trees planted in the area. Even with more than 25 apple growers, Medina produces just a small portion of what is needed to satisfy Texans' appetite for the fruit.

With the success of the apple orchard, the Baxters have added a second orchard near Devine and a nursery and a store in Medina. Visitors can get their Texas apple fix any time of the year at the Cider Mill and Country Store. The little store on Main Street offers a big shopping experience, and the heart of the store is what comes out of the kitchen. One whole wall is covered with jars of condiments and concoctions made from Texas-grown apples.

Besides dwarf apple trees, the Love Creek Orchard's nursery also raises Bigtooth Maple trees. Relics from the Ice Age that produce a blaze of autumn foliage, the rare native Texas trees can be found growing naturally at Lost Maples State Natural Area. Having survived in protected canyons, the trees are adaptable to any part of the state.

The International Apple Festival runs from 9am to 5pm on the last Saturday of July. For information, call 830/859-7224, or visit their Web site at www.medinatexas.com. For information on the Love Creek Orchards, call 800/449-0882, or point your browser to www.lovecreekorchards.com.

684th in a series. Day Trips, Vol. 2, a book of Day Trips 101-200, is available for $8.95, plus $3.05 for shipping, handling, and tax. Mail to: Day Trips, PO Box 33284, South Austin, TX 78704.Apple Day

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

The Texas International Apple Festival, Baxter Adams, Love Creek Orchard

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