EXCELSIOR — Excelsior Apple Day, a festival celebrating community and the fruit that helped put Excelsior on the map, will be held Sept. 21 in downtown Excelsior.

The annual festival will feature locally produced food, art, antiques, handcrafted goods, baking and pie-eating contests, live music and a street dance, among other activities.

“This is a day when time vstands still. Where friends and family gather on the streets of downtown Excelsior and enjoy a community celebration that dates back to the 20th century,” said Bill Bamberg, Excelsior-Lake Minnetonka Chamber of Commerce board member and owner of Brightwater Clothing and Gear, in a news release.

The day begins with exercise thanks to the 7th annual Apple of the Lake 5K Fun Run and 1 mile Fun Run, which serves as a fundraiser for the Excelsior-Lake Minnetonka Chamber of Commerce and the chamber’s annual events, such as Apple Day.

“We love this time of year! Held on a beautiful fall morning, we welcome both elite runners and families that have made this a fun tradition and way to start their Apple Day celebration,” Myra Wang, race organizer, said in the release.

Throughout the day, there will be live music at two different stages, a street fair, kids activities, a beer garden and food vendors along Water Street in downtown Excelsior. Residents of The Waters of Excelsior, a senior living community, will also have a booth at the festival, where they’ll share their wisdom with all who stop by their table.

To register for the fun runs, pie-eating contest or baking contest, visit www.excelsior-lakeminnetonkachamber.com/apple-day.

Why Apple Day?

Apples played a major role in the history of the South Lake Minnetonka area. Peter Gideon — the man Lake Minnetonka’s Gideon Bay is named after — created Minnesota’s first cold-hardy apple while living in what is now the Excelsior area. Called the Wealthy after his wife, Gideon debuted the apple at the Minnesota State Fair in 1868.

This was big news for pioneers who considered apples their most important fruit due to their versatility and long shelf life. They had avoided coming to Minnesota because it was impossible to grow apples here.

Gideon’s apple changed all that, helping improve Minnesota’s image and economy. Other byproducts of his invention are the Haralson and Honeygold apples, an uptick in immigration back in the day, and Excelsior’s Apple Day festival, which began in 1935.

Melissa Turtinen is the community editor for Lakeshore Weekly News and Eden Prairie News. She's passionate about adding context to stories and informing people about what's going on in their community. She enjoys being outside, traveling and good beer.

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