Virtual Ruthven Apple Festival offers plenty for supporters to enjoy from home

by Sylene Argent

Since the first Ruthven Apple Festival was held over four-decades ago, over $1M has been raised for Community Living Essex County (CLEC) to help support its clients in achieving their goals and reach for success.

  Today, CLEC supports over 700 individuals with intellectual disabilities, and their families, from across Essex County.

  Funds raise over the Ruthven Apple Festival weekend typically support CLEC’s transportation vehicles, which assist clients in keeping involved in their communities.

  The event traditionally takes place on the grounds of Colasanti’s Tropical Gardens, but due to safety concerns with COVID-19, this year’s 41st Ruthven Apple Festival was held virtually. This change up gave supporters a unique chance to enjoy many activities and modes of entertainment from the comfort of their own couch, Tony DeSantis said, who is the Manager of Community Relations and Resource Development.

   The event kicked off on Friday evening with the official opening ceremony and popular apple peeling contest.

  Contestants in the apple peeling contest, which included local dignitaries from across the region, from all levels of government, had to be particularly honest about their skills this year as the contest was hosted via Zoom.

  A moment that was sure to bring a chuckle to all who were watching, was when MP Chris Lewis brought a horse into frame and offered it the apple, instead of peeling it. He spoke of the challenges the community faces during the pandemic, and noted new ideas and thoughts will fight those challenges. He said it is vital to carry on traditions and was pleased to participate.

  Lewis also noted the community would not be the great place it is without the work CLEC does.

  Kingsville Mayor Nelson Santos defended and reclaimed the coveted apple peeling champion award, by creating the longest peel in the contest, which will give him bragging rights for another year.

  Many of the festival’s popular activities continued over the weekend, which included children’s attractions, such as a colouring contest. Pre-recorded and live-streamed events also took place, which included music entertainment from the youth classic rock band, “Leave those Kids Alone,” artists Derrick Hearns, Candice Twees, and “Last Minute.” A virtual classic car show also took place, which brought viewers up close to the classic and custom cars onsite. In addition, cooking classes, and art and pie auctions were also offered.

  As part of this year’s virtual festival, a variety of pies from local bakeries will be available to purchase online. 

To learn more about the pies or baskets available for purchase, or to view some of the Festival’s live stream and pre-recorded activities, log onto

  DeSantis said this was the first year CLEC hosted the Ruthven Apple Festival virtually, but its Steering Committee wanted to ensure its supporters could still enjoy everything the local event offers every year.

  Karen Bolger, Executive Director of CLEC, said with the weather experienced over the weekend, it would have been wonderful to have everyone gather at the Ruthven Apple Festival grounds this year, but noted, in the midst of a pandemic, it would have been impossible to keep everyone safe.

  She noted that though it was sad to cancel the live event, it was exciting to be able to offer the virtual substitute. She thanked all the supporters and sponsors for ensuring the event took place in its special form this year.

© 2020 The Essex Free Press ltd.

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