Snuggled against the side of the Sacramento Mountains near Ruidoso and overlooking the Tularosa Basin, where the Nichols family has been growing fruit for nearly 100 years, apples will be celebrated in all their tart sweetness with the first Nichols Ranch Apple Festival on Saturday, Oct. 2 and Sunday, Oct. 3.
“We’re really just trying to host a family-oriented event where people can get out outdoors, feel safe and shop at a bunch of local businesses that we bring in, put in our orchard set up amongst the trees,” said Roy Nichols, one of the farm’s family members.
“We’re going to try to have everything apple that we can,” he said. “We’re going to have apple picking, fresh-pressed apple cider, apple pies, apple turnovers, apple butter. We’re outsourcing the caramel apples just because we weren’t going to be able to make enough.”
The Sabor Candy Store will be providing not just caramel apples, but a wide assortment of fancy candied apples, Nichols said.
Members of the Tularosa Community Church will be doing apple pies and turnovers as a fundraising event.
In addition to other local businesses that will be gearing up with apple-related merchandise, many local artisans will be showing off their wares.
“A lot of the vendors are trying to do fall and apple-themed products, like apple-scented candles and apple cider soap,” Nichols said.
Of course, it wouldn’t be much of a festival without music and there will be tunes aplenty throughout the event.
The Justin Kemp Band out of Texas will be doing a traditional barn dance Saturday, Oct. 2 from 4-7 p.m., with all kinds of foot-stomping music.
Local country musician Chris Baker will play from 9 a.m.-noon and New Mexican bluegrass band Foggy Memory Boys, featuring state mandolin champion Jacob Hagerty, play from noon-3 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 2.
Local country-themed The Three Rivers Band plays 9 a.m. to noon on Sunday, Oct. 3, followed by local favorite Rosewater Blues from 1-4 p.m.
Runyan Ranches Petting Zoo will bring its wide assortment of tame animals that kids of all ages love to see: zebras, camels, water buffalo, goats, llamas, alpacas, sheep, even a wallaby.
In addition, local wineries and breweries will be serving up their finest concoctions.
While it’s the first time for the Apple Festival, the 22-acre site twice in the past three years (2020 excluded because of the pandemic) has been site of cherry festivals. Nearby community High Rolls used to have festivals celebrating both cherry and apple harvests, but those went away in 2019, so Nichols Ranch decided to fill the void.
The Cherry Festival in June drew about 9,000 people, he said.
“That was a lot,” he said. “We were at capacity for that. We have parking in the last few miles into our ranch. We tried to keep it moving, but there was a bit of a traffic jam, so people have to manage expectations and be prepared to wait because there may be some long lines.”
And they expect to be at capacity for this festival, as well, by planning for it with shuttles for the mobility challenged. And in future years, the plan is to add a hay wagon for folks to ride into the ranch to help ease traffic issues. There just wasn’t enough time to get permitting and insurance for this year, Nichols said.
“The orchard is on the side of a mountain, so there is an incline walk up through the festival,” he said. “We provide a shuttle to take mobility challenged to the top so they can see part of the festival, or get a ride back down. It is challenging because it’s at 6,800 feet. It’s harder to breathe. But the view is really amazing. You can see the whole Tularosa Basin and the whole of White Sands National Park.”