There was a day not so long ago that you weren’t able to find Pink Lady or Ambrosia apples in your average grocery store in Vancouver. If you couldn’t make your way to Granville Island, or trek to a grower in the Valley, you only had the pick of a very few apples available in grocery stores.
UBC Botanical Garden’s Apple Festival helped change that.
In 1991, there were 42 varieties of apples in the Food Garden and two Friends of the Garden (FOG) volunteers independently saw the opportunity to use these apples to draw people to the Garden. Anne Gartshore and Margaret Charlton saw the educational and fundraising potential, respectively, of the Garden’s apples.
Gartshore was long fascinated with apples and their histories. “You could say apples were in my genes,” Gartshore said, as her grandfather was an apple grower.
The two came together with the idea of a celebration of the apple and the Apple Festival was born. The aim was to introduce the public to more varieties and educate people on the Garden’s collections while raising money to support it at the same time.
They made connections with growers in British Columbia’s Fraser Valley and the Okanagan and picked up the apples for that first festival themselves.
“We drove up in Margaret’s Jeep, loaded them up with apples, and didn’t get back until midnight.”
The first three years were really spent finding varieties of apples for sale and tasting at the Festival and then it started to grow exponentially.
After the tireless efforts of FOGs, staff, and volunteers, the first Apple Festival was held on October 18, 1991 on the deck of the Garden’s Reception Centre. There were 3700 pounds of 26 varieties of apples for sale, 41 varieties for tasting, and ten more on display.
25 years later, the now two-day festival is a banner event organized by the FOGs and annually attended by up to 14,000. Up to 37,000 pounds of apples are sold, along with ~500 apple trees on dwarfing rootstock, apple goodies, a tasting tent, and live music and activities for children.
Submitted by Jessica Roberts-Farina, Work Learn Marketing & Communications Assistant, March 14, 2016