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The upcoming McIntosh Apple Day festival, known as “The Biggest Bake Sale Under the Big Sky,” has become a Bitterroot Valley icon that now draws attention from across the nation.

The Ravalli County Museum’s signature event of the year will be celebrated from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. Saturday in Hamilton.

McIntosh Apple Day has become a tradition celebrating apple harvest. The streets around the museum will be full of merchants selling produce, art, crafts, food and almost everything you can think of related to apples. The Ravalli County Museum will sell more than 650 made-from-scratch apple pies, as well as caramel apple slices, kabobs, barbecue pork with apple chutney and nearly 400 jars of apple butter.

Sarah Monson, program coordinator for the Ravalli County Museum, said Apple Day has become an iconic festival.

“It was featured in National Geographic Traveler online, and we were named 2014 Montana’s Best Festival,” said Monson. “I talked to a vendor who said she’s been in Apple Day for the last 20 years, and when they first started there were 10 vendors and now we have 190 vendors that draw thousands of visitors. The Montana Office of Tourism gave us a grant to advertise across Montana and regionally. The liquid cider night is advertised in Cider Magazine, which is distributed across the United States.”

Monson said the production company Orion Entertainment will be at Apple Day to film a segment for Living Big Sky that will air in the spring on HGTV.

“It is a reality show and they’ll have people taking turns stirring the apple butter and purchasing pies and caramel apples,” Monson said.

Also at Apple Day are raffle items, a silent auction and live entertainment. Apple Day and Liquid Apple Night are fundraising events for the Ravalli County Museum which is supported by grants and community donations.

The Liquid Apple Night/Hard Cider Festival will be held in Legion Park from 4 p.m. until 8 p.m. It features Bitterroot Valley ciders from Montana Ciderworks and Backroads Cider.

The event was held for the first time last year, drawing nearly 400 people to the family-friendly evening of live entertainment, food, cider, twinkle lights and good friends.

Claire Kemp, owner of Bella Boutique, is the organizer.

“It was a magical, beautiful fall evening with awesome jazz by the Kimberly Carlson jazz band – they’ll play again this year,” said Kemp. “There were people milling around in the park and it had such a relaxed atmosphere, the perfect end to Apple Day. Every person that went raved about how it was the best night ever. There was a happy vibe, the last outdoor party of the year and a wonderful way to bring in fall.”

Kemp said the craft-brewing industry has boomed during the past 20 years, and she sees cider as the next big thing.

“Along the East Coast it is such an old tradition that goes back to the roots of our country even before beer and wine,” Kemp said. “It is making a comeback. We have cideries in our valley. And we actually were the first ciderfest in Montana, which is exciting. There was one right on our heels in Helena.

“Cider seems to agree with a lot of people who maybe don’t drink beer or wine, but everybody who tries it likes it. It can be dynamic like wine, but crisp and refreshing – not as heavy as beer.”

Those who are 21 years and older can purchase a commemorative glass and cider tastings for $20. It will feature local cideries, as well as more than 20 varieties from across the country and even one from Italy.

Bitter Root Brewing will have a food cart with several options. MineShaft Pasty Company will serve a pulled-pork apple-chutney pasty and more.

Burn barrels and propane heaters will be used to temper the cool weather of the evening. Guests are encouraged to bring a jacket.

Tickets to the Liquid Apple Night/Hard Cider Festival are available now at the Ravalli County Museum, Chapter One Book Store, Bella Boutique and Bitterroot Brewing.

“Come have a night to remember and celebrate the last outdoor party of the Bitterroot Valley,” Kemp said.

The Ravalli County Museum is located at 201 Bedford St., in Hamilton. Legion Park is located at 220 S. Second St., Hamilton. For more information call the Ravalli County Museum at 406-363-3338 or visit ravallimuseum.org.

Reach reporter Michelle McConnaha at 363-3300 or michelle.mcconnaha@ravallirepublic.com.

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Staff Reporter

Reporter at The Ravalli Republic