Skip to site content
Group Travel Leader Group Travel Leader Group Travel Leader

Most festivals share humble origins

By Teri

Local fishermen in Buzzards Bay, Mass., wanted to attract tourists to their area near Cape Cod and provide a family-oriented event for residents, so they started a scallop festival to honor the local seafood product.

Now, 42 years later, the event attracts more than 50,000 visitors each year and is included in the American Bus Association’s (ABA’s) Top 100 Events in North America for 2012.

A woman who moved to western Pennsylvania from Texas 30 years ago was struck by the area’s large number of apple orchards and organized a pie-baking contest.

“Applefest has grown from a community pie-baking contest to one of the largest festivals in western Pennsylvania,” said Lynn Cochran, executive director of the Franklin Area Chamber of Commerce. “It has become an economic engine for the entire region.”

Barnesville Potato Days in Barnesville, Minn., also started out small and has grown into a major event that, like Applefest and the Bourne Scallop Festival, has been recognized by ABA as one of the top events for groups in 2012.

“In 1922, we started as a Saturday celebration in the fall when the potato harvest was done,” said Theresa Olson, executive director of the Potato Days festival. “It started as a picking contest for the guys. The next year, the ladies wanted to join in and have a peeling contest. We still have both today.”

Another ABA Top 100 event, the National Cherry Festival in Traverse City, Mich., which began in 1925 when local businesses partnered with area cherry farmers to promote the growing industry, had a more prestigious beginning when a local bakery make a huge cherry pie for President Calvin Coolidge the following year.

These festivals that are built around local agricultural products are a great option for group leaders looking for a festival in 2012 that is amenable to motorcoach groups.

Franklin, Pa.
Oct. 5-7

Applefest, which marks its 30th anniversary next year, still has that pie-baking contest, but there are scores of other things for the more than 100,000 people who attend the three-day festival the first full weekend in October.

“There are many, many things to do,” said Cochran. “There are more than 300 vendors, food as well as crafts and artisans. There is continuous entertainment and a huge farmers market.

“There are tours of St. John’s Episcopal Church, which has more than a million-dollar collection of Tiffany stained glass, tours of DeBence Antique Music World and wagon rides.

However, the festival hasn’t forgotten its roots.

“There are apple cider booths, a pie-eating contest — lots of things pertaining to apples. We still honor the tradition that makes us what we are,” said Cochran.

The chamber of commerce sells more than 4,000 apple dumplings each year, and more than 400 homemade apple pies raise money for local church organizations.

Many of the apple orchards around Franklin, a charming town filled with Victorian buildings, date from seeds planted in the 1800s by John Chapman, also known as Johnny Appleseed, who lived in the town briefly.

Bourne Scallop Festival

Buzzards Bay, Mass.
Sept. 12-13

Motorcoaches are not the only way to get to the Bourne Scallop Festival. “The Cape Cod Central Railroad brings groups by train, and Hy-Line Cruises brings them on a boat from Hyannis into the harbor and to the festival,” said Marie Oliva, president and CEO of the Cape Cod Canal Regional Chamber of Commerce.

“We have bus greeters who try to make them [groups] feel comfortable when they come in and tell everything going on, and we have a person who deals directly with each group leader prior to the festival. We have a lot of communication before they come into the festival.

“It’s an acre and a half, not so large that you can get lost. The main food tent is right there.”

Oliva said there is nonstop entertainment with a wide variety of music, 16-foot-tall characters roaming the grounds and juried professional arts-and-crafts booths.

“They are under one great big, massive tent,” she said. “There is easy accessibility and plenty of room to roam about.”

And, of course, there are scallops, which are fried in pure vegetable oil with no trans fat. “People love the scallops,” said Oliva. “We cook 6,000 pounds.”

The other main food is roasted chicken, but a food court has a wide selection.