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Popular Mill Neck Apple Festival returns as a drive-through experience

Jade Council, 7, and her brother, Evan, 5,

Jade Council, 7, and her brother, Evan, 5, from Brentwood, choose their apples at Mill Neck Manor's annual Apple Fest on Oct. 6, 2018. This year's event will be a socially distant drive-through.  Credit: Linda Rosier

This fall Mill Neck Family is forging forward. The group of organizations for the deaf and hard of hearing on the North Shore refuses to let the pandemic prohibit its 69th annual Apple Festival. The event has been restructured into a drive-through format set for Oct. 10 and 11.

"Our festival committee agreed that we cannot cancel the Apple Festival. It has been such a Long Island tradition since 1951," says Dr. Asiah Mason, chief executive officer. "When we saw that people were doing farmers markets and drive-in movies, we thought, ‘OK, we can do a drive-through Apple Festival!’ We will still sell all the fall products people love, according to COVID safety protocol."

The school already had to cancel its Gatsby Roaring 2020 Gala in June as well as the Mill Neck Cup Golf Tournament and Luxury Spa Day in July. Losing the Apple Festival would be difficult for the school financially.

"It’s our biggest fundraiser. We typically get 10,000 people a day," says Christine Oddo, director of community outreach.

HOW IT WORKS

When entering the 86-acre campus in Mill Neck, guests, who must remain in their cars the entire time, will be greeted with familiar aesthetics such as pumpkin displays, bales of hay and balloons. Turn right into the parking field marked "Day of Purchasing" to start your apple adventure. Over 15,000-pounds of apples will be for sale in eight different varieties, fresh-picked from the orchards of Fino Farms in Milton, New York. Visitors can get Snapdragon, Honeycrisp, Red Delicious, Jonagold, Crispin, Gala, McIntosh or Golden Delicious apples in three sizes: a 5-pound bag ($10), a small box (one peck for $18) and a large box (1/2 bushel for $30).

"When you arrive, you will get a menu and while waiting in the car, you pick your options," says Jillian Michaelson, coordinator of development. "We are going to queue cars into a line and our masked volunteers will go to the car window to take your order."

Many people rely on the Apple Festival to stock up on apples for baking purposes. Golden Delicious is sighted as the go-to apple for pies. However, another flavor has risen to the top of the pile.

"Honeycrisp is the most popular by a landslide because they are just so crispy and sweet with a great bite," says Michaelson. "We order two extra bins of them every year."

For apple fans, there will be more apple products to pick from such as apple butter, apple cider, apple fritters, apple pies and apple cider doughnuts. Non-apple products for sale include more than 10 artisanal cheeses from Buttercup Cheese, McCutcheon’s preserves, Karl Ehmer meats, local New York State honey, other pies (pumpkin, coconut custard), 12 flavors of homemade Gooseberry Grove fudge and six kinds of bread from La Bonne Boulangerie.

"There will be no contact. Everything will be digital," says Mason. "Our volunteers will deliver the products in masks and gloves as everyone waits in their car."

PRE-ORDER PROCESS

For those who want to get in and out quickly, Mill Neck Family is offering preordering online via the Clover portal on millneck.org, where customers get a ticket and the organizers have a receipt. When entering the campus, bear to the left in the parking field toward the "Pre-Orders" sign, show your ticket, pick up your package and exit. "We have longtime visitors that just come for their boxes of apples and they head out," says Michaelson. "That’s why the pre-order process is so important."

AUTO-BOUND ACTIVITIES

For more festival fun, head straight up the hill to Apple Festival Lane where costumed volunteers will distribute a scavenger hunt handout that families can complete in the car as they drive through the campus. Tickets for the 50/50 raffle can be purchased and there’s even a "guess the weight of a giant pumpkin" contest (winner takes it home!).

Mill Neck Family's team is up for the challenge this year, but they're eyeing a returning back to the traditional festival experience next fall.

"When the pandemic is over, we can say we kept our mission going," says Oddo. "Next year will be our 70th anniversary and it’s going to be huge."

MILL NECK FAMILY'S APPLE FESTIVAL

WHEN | WHERE 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Oct. 10 and 11; Mill Neck Manor, 40 Frost Mill Road, Mill Neck

INFO 516-628-4241, millneck.org (preorders available online)

ADMISSION Free, however donations will be accepted.

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