If you’ve been to the North Carolina Apple Festival in recent years, it’s a safe bet you’ve seen Tonya Cochran. Since 1990, Cochran has volunteered her time at the festival that draws nearly 300,000 people to downtown Hendersonville over Labor Day weekend.
This year’s event will be no different for Cochran, except for the fact her festival duties have grown considerably. As president of the Apple Festival, she’s responsible for making sure everything runs smoothly and everyone has a good time while eating all those apples.
“One of my main duties for the last six years has been sponsorships,” Cochran says. “As president, I’ve been very involved in several of our committees, and I was involved in picking out the entertainment. I have a huge support system that helps me do what needs to be done.”
Much of that support comes from the many volunteers who serve on the various Apple Festival committees. But Cochran has a few extra hands she plans to call on that are closer to home. “I’m planning on having all three of my children and my husband helping me,” she says.
Cochran, who works as the practice administrator for Laborde Eye Group, says Apple Festival attendees will see many of the familiar vendors and activities that have traditionally been part of the apple harvest celebration. But you can expect to see a few new attractions in a previously unused portion of downtown.
“As an extension of the festival, we are going out into the block that is between Sixth and Seventh avenues where Umi and Macon Bank are,” she says. “We have the Blood Connection coming in with their bloodmobile, and the North Carolina DMV will come in and have information to hand out. We’ll probably have a couple of other things in that block.”
Also new this year is a quilt and craft show at First Baptist Church on August 31 from 9am-5pm, and a DISH Network tour truck offering interactive TV in the visitors center parking lot.
Cochran says she is excited about the first Tour d’ Apple on September 2, which offers 100-mile, 63-mile and 25-mile bike rides through Henderson County’s apple orchards and countryside. Headline entertainment, Cochran says, will feature the Buddy K Big Band, the Black Bottom Biscuits, the Band of Oz, an Elvis tribute, and the Mighty Kicks.
After getting her feet wet as a volunteer for a number of years, Cochran eventually joined the festival board in 2008. She says she looks forward to the Apple Festival each year and is honored to be serving as its president.
“I just love the hometown feel and seeing our community coming together,” she says. “One of my favorite things is seeing people I haven’t seen in a long time because the festival brings everyone out. Between seeing old friends and the entertainment, that’s probably what I like best about the festival.
“And eating apples, absolutely.”