The smell of fresh apple pie was wafting through the back hallways of the Ravalli County Museum Thursday afternoon.
That can only mean one thing.
The 31st annual celebration of MacIntosh Apple Days must be right around the corner.
By Friday evening, there will 500 freshly baked apple pies ready for the hordes of people who will descend on the museum's grounds to take part in what is the Bitterroot Valley's harbinger of fall.
The annual apple festival will officially get underway at 9 a.m. Saturday morning and conclude somewhere close to 3 p.m.
This year the event will feature more than 150 vendors offering food and a wide variety of crafts, jewelry and other homemade finery.
"There were 130 vendors last year," said Ravalli County Museum director Tamar Stanley. "This year we've had a waiting list of vendors wanting to participate."
As always, the Boy Scouts will be pressing fresh apple cider as a special treat. There will also be a large number of items, including a miniature barn and house, and numerous pieces of art, auctioned and raffled off during the day.
There's also some really good news for those who like to plan their lives out far in advance.
Starting this year, Stanley made the executive decision that the museum's most important fundraiser will always fall on the first weekend of October.
"Traditionally, we've looked at the Farmer's Almanac to help us decide which weekend would be best," Stanley said.
But since the almanac is put together by some flatland farmers from Nebraska, Stanley decided the almanac's information didn't really have much to do with agriculture in the Bitterroot.
"I think people will like the fact that it will always be on the same weekend," Stanley said.
As always, young people from the Trapper Creek Job Corps spent several days this week peeling 36 bushels of MacIntosh apples and helped make the crust for the 500 pies (200 Dutch crunch, 200 double crust, and 100 frozen) that be on sale Saturday morning.
"They were an especially adept group of young people," Stanley said.
Cheryl Patzer at Hamilton's Coffee Cup and Kathy Martin at the Corvallis school kitchen have been busy baking all those pies for the big event.
"We really appreciate their efforts," Stanley said. "It would be hard to get all of this accomplished without them."
This year when people tire of eating apple pie and shopping through the long rows of booths, they can head on over to the Apple Day Demolition Derby at the Ravalli County Fairgrounds. That event begins at 4 p.m.
Stanley said there is one thing for sure to be a big improvement over last year.
"Last year we had the coldest day in 107 years," she said. "Our crowd was still loyal, but it was too cold to get the most out of the day. That shouldn't be a problem this year."
The weather forecast is calling for sunshine and temperatures somewhere near the 80-degree mark.
"It should be a glorious day," Stanley said.
Reporter Perry Backus can be reached at 363-3300 or email@example.com.