This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Apple Tasting Tour. From its humble origins in 1997, this tour has grown into a beloved annual event with many moving parts: 12 participating tour stops, restaurant sponsors, a website, an app, etc. Through the years, families and friends have loved touring Wayne County in the fall, and are now even passing it on to the new generation.
Christine Worth, Director of Wayne County Tourism, shares her experience working on the tour:
“Overseeing the last 22 years of the Apple Tasting Tour promotions has been gratifying. It is important to highlight the significance of the apple industry in Wayne County and bring people to our family apple orchards. It has been wonderful working with the partners through the years to promote visitation to Wayne County during harvest season. I have enjoyed leading this campaign and being the driving force promoting the tour as it has evolved through the years.”
As this is such a big year for us, we think it is important to slow down and go through some milestones of the past 25 years, and to share how much this tour means to the community. Here’s a look back of 25 years of the Wayne County Apple Tasting Tour.
The Early Years
The Finger Lakes have always been a premiere destination for wine tours and trails. However, Wayne County has something extra special about it: it is the largest apple-producing county in all of New York State. This fact separates Wayne County from the surrounding counties, giving it that opportunity for a different type of agricultural tourism experience.
Ora Rothfuss from the planning office was in meetings with tourism partners when the tour was first being developed:
“We originally felt the same concepts being used with the winery tours would also work with the nation’s best tasting apples. This has turned out to be true and by working together, the farm markets have demonstrated that the rising tide raises all boats.”
When the tour kicked off in 1997, there were 8 participating farms on the tour. 2 of these have remained on the tour every single year: Long Acre Farm and The Apple Shed.
At the top right, you will see our first press release in the Williamson Sun, 1998. Recognize anything else in here?
As the tour evolved, we added new elements in addition to the farms, such as wineries and distilleries, participating parks on some years, and restaurant sponsors. We’ve also included more interactive aspects, such as brochures, recipes, games, raffles, and a Tasting Tour Weekend.
Front cover of the 15th anniversary brochure
As the years went on, the Apple Tasting Tour became a special part of the community, something that brings together friends and family to enjoy the fall harvest, year after year.
The Apple Tasting App
Of course, in 2020, the COVID-19 Pandemic rocked the world, and most things were put on a standstill. The Apple Tasting Tour, however, continued on. In the interest of reducing physical contact, we created the Apple Tasting Tour App.
We moved some of the interactive elements onto the app, leading to the virtual passport and virtual tasting. Participants were now able to discover all of the tour stops virtually and to read about what makes them each special. That year, participants would earn badges for answering a trivia question at the stops and then could send in photos of the badges to be entered into weekly prize drawings.
Since the Apple Tasting Tour has always been a self-driven tour, guests were able to continue participating in this event in a low-contact, safe way. Participants were encouraged to travel along the trail at their own pace throughout the month of October, still being able to enjoy a glimpse of normalcy in a chaotic time.
Now, we continue to use the app as a convenient way to share information about the tour and to allow participants to access everything they need at the tip of their fingers, 24/7.
Awards and Grants
New York State Tourism Industry Association 2017 Tourism Excellence Award
The Wayne County Apple Tasting Tour was recognized with a Tourism Excellence Award from the New York State Tourism Industry Association (NYSTIA) at their Annual Meeting in Watkins Glen on October 26, 2017. The Tourism Excellence Awards recognize leaders in New York State’s tourism industry who have achieved a high level of excellence and accomplishment.
New York State Agricultural Society Ag Promotion Award Recipient
In 2019, the tour won the NYS Agricultural Society Ag Promotion Award. This award was presented to Wayne County Tourism by New York Agriculture Society at their annual meeting. The award recognizes individuals and groups for their efforts to improve the understanding of agriculture in rural, suburban and urban communities of NYS.
Rochester Chapter of Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Prism Awards
In 2021, the Apple Tasting Tour was recognized and won a Prism Award for SmartPhone/Tablet Application – Seasonal Trail uses Gamification to Augment Visitation with New Virtual Experience
New York State Tourism Industry Association (NYSTIA) 2021 NYS Tourism Excellence Awards
In 2021, the tour won two awards at the NYSTIA Tourism Excellence Awards Ceremony:
Excellence in Tourism Marketing: Digital Marketing Campaign
Wayne County Office of Tourism was recognized for the “Apple Tasting Tour APP”
Excellence in Tourism Marketing Best COVID Response Marketing Effort to Pivot to Success
Wayne County Tourism was recognized for “Apple Tasting Tour U Pick The Way”
Genesee Valley Regional Market Authority Agriculture Development Program Grant
In 2020, we applied & were awarded a $15,000 grant from Genesee Valley Regional Market Authority Agriculture Development Program for the Apple Tasting Tour video project.
Filming took place October 19-25, 2020. We completed 9 videos, each over 1-minute in length, to highlight different elements of the tour.
Of course, the Apple Tasting Tour would not be as successful as it is today without the support and love from the community. Here are some testimonials and highlights from participants who have enjoyed the tour over the years:
“I love the fall decorations and just being with my whole family. Watching my 17 month old grandson explore all the pumpkins.” – Karen Doser
“I am so happy that this event is still going on after all of these years. I started doing the tour with my daughters and it is one of the events we look forward to every year.” – Renae Lawson, who has been participating on the tour for over 15 years.
Mary Lochner, who has been going on the tour for 5 years, sent in this picture:
“I am looking forward to this year and continuing to build our annual memory as a family.”– Mindy Christa, who has participated on the tour for over 5 years
Mindy’s grandson enjoying the tour
Ora Rothfuss, who continues to work on the Apple Tasting Tour says:
“The Farm market managers have a fine-tuned understanding of their customers and how to meet their needs. I am thrilled to see them continue to refine and modify the Apple Tasting tour format and outreach to better serve the people of this region.
I am pleased to have been a part of this successful program and appreciate the support that the County Tourism has offered this program from the very beginning.”
We are looking forward to seeing how the tour continues to evolve over the next 25 years. We’ll see you next October for our 26th anniversary!