Chef Shay Gilliam of St. John Specialty Care Center cooks apple crepes during the Mars Applefest on Saturday.
MARS — Pumpkins may be the fruit most synonymous with the fall season, but it was a different fruit that was the star of the show at Saturday's Mars Applefest. “Apples are the big attraction,” said Rich Wilson, the master of ceremonies for the past five years. Indeed, apple products were spread throughout the event, including apple pie, apple strudel, apple dumplings, apple cider, apple butter and even crafts made from apples. Apples are not the only feature of Applefest. It also includes numerous vendors, activities for children and musical acts. This year, the number of vendors was expanded to 150, leading to nearly a half-mile of sellers along Grand Avenue. “You're not going to find any better example of Americana,” Wilson said. One thing that Wilson likes about the festival is that people of all walks of life, from young to old, rich to poor, local or out of town, come and enjoy it equally. “Everybody is the same when they come to the Mars Applefest,” Wilson said. The festival also is very well attended, he said. “On a good day, we probably will bring in 6,000 or 7,000 people,” Wilson said. This is the third year that the Rich-Mar Rotary Club organized Applefest. “It just brings the community together,” said Matt Schellhaas, club president. Sharon Hohmeyer of Evans City is a long-time attendee. “I've been coming here every year since I graduated high school,” Hohmeyer, a 1979 Mars High School graduate, said. She has seen it change and grow over the years. “It's a lot nicer. They've got more people here now,” Hohmeyer said. Phyllis Boyle of Mars lives close enough that she was able to walk to the event. She usually attends every other year. “It's just an interesting festival,” Boyle said. She was there with family members, including her daughter and her grandson, who was painting a pumpkin. “It's a family thing,” Boyle said. Adam Falco of Cranberry Township said that he and his family enjoy the vendors, mainly the food vendors. “I like the food; we like the food,” Falco said, noting that he likes supporting vendors who raise funds for charities and nonprofit organizations. Falco is a member of the Rich-Mar Rotary Club and helped to organize the event. He said he likes the sense of community that such events create. Leslie May of Franklin Township came for the first time. “I loved the gourds,” May said, referencing the painted gourds. And, true to the festival's name, she sampled some apple cider while she was there. “I thought it was delicious,” May said.