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Festival patrons peruse the wares at the Windfall Cider Fest on Saturday.

So what is this thing, WindFall Cider Fest and Roots Music? And why is it a KEEN thing?

It’s like a brewfest, but for hard cider.

In its third year, WindFall is a craft beverage tasting and live music festival to celebrate the tastes and tunes of the season. It’s a benefit event with funds ear-marked for KEEN’s long-term goal of creating the Yakima Canyon Interpretive Center at Helen McCabe Park.

Twelve cider houses from around the state and four live bands will be coming to Ellensburg and rejoicing in the bounty of the season.

Held at the Kittitas Valley Event Center (Western Town) on October 5, WindFall taps open at 3 p.m., the first band takes the stage at 3:30 p.m., and the fun continues until 9 p.m. The stage is outdoors, so grab a flannel.

Tickets are on sale now at www.windfallciderfest.org. The price online, in advance, is $35, or you can get them at the gate for $40. A ticket will get you entry, a tasting glass, six pours, and the best Roots Music experience around. You’ll want to bring your friends.

What do you mean by Roots Music? That’s a term that encompasses bluegrass, Americana and Folk genres, and all that blends them. Our chosen bands are strongly rooted in old-timey instrumentation, harmonies, and tradition… but are branching out.

These bands are chosen to reflect the vibrant energy of Central Washington at harvest time.

A lot of locals know and love our own wonderful Killdeer String Band, who we are delighted to have in the line-up, but probably don’t recognize Young Feller.

Bandmates Seth Garrido, Brandon Brooks, and Jeff Dermond used to be in an Ellensburg staple, Old Country Joy, years ago, and are coming together as Young Feller to give some love to their old home-town gang. Talented, seasoned musicians with almost no reverence for anything, they are sure to bring some fun energy.

Fort Defiance is an indie Americana duo, singer-songwriters, touring constantly from their home base in Nashville. They get rave reviews for their strong harmonies, lush instrumentation, and dynamic stage show.

The headliner band, Head for the Hills, comes to Ellensburg from Boulder, where they have been performing and recording, between national tours, for more than 15 years. They are strongly rooted in Bluegrass with the ability to pull from rock, classic, jazz, and world flavors. This ain’t your granddaddy’s bluegrass. Wear your dancing boots.

But why a Cider Fest? Why not? Here we are in Ellensburg, nestled between the Fruit Bowl of the Nation and the Apple Capital of the World. It’s a natural fit.

Cider has a long history, going back for centuries. It was the favored beverage of the people going back to before the middle ages, it was easy to make, easy to keep, and easy to drink. At times in European history, it was much safer to drink than the water.

Over the past few years, cider production has gained a foothold among craft beverage fans and experts, for the simplest of reasons: it’s tasty.

“Cider” means apple juice is the primary ingredient, and can be mixed with pear, peach, grape, berry, or almost anything else you can imagine adding to a beverage.

“Perry” means that pear juice is used, excluding apple juice, but other fruits (like berries), herbs or flowers can be combined with the juice during fermentation.

Cider’s and perry’s flavor spectrum runs from dry, with elements of bitter, to sweet and spicy, and blended varieties of apples change it up. Single varietals, especially made with heritage apples, offer a unique experience. With the addition of herbs, hops, additional fruits, and even flowers, there are flavors that appeal to the most discriminating taste buds.

But how does this connect to KEEN and environmental education? Learning never stops. And we live where agriculture is a predominant use of land, and an important part of our environment.

Land and water use issues, soil science, and conservation are critically important for our farming neighbors. Orchardists are constantly struggling to persist, keep the farm in the family, and have a sustainable business.

The cider makers that are coming to WindFall are not “Big Ag.” Orchards for cider are maybe in the hundreds-of-acres range, in mixed crop production, and often managed organically.

Some cidermakers are third- or fourth-generation on the family plot, grafting cider apple varieties to stumps from great-grandpa’s red delicious apple trees. This demonstrates an epic act of recycling.

The resurgence of cider as a commercial commodity means that smaller family farms are able to invest in a variety of trees and some equipment, diversify their business, and work the land using methods that are more sustainable.

These are our friends and neighbors, working in accord with the best stewardship practices, and being productive. Come to WindFall and join in their seasonal success.

For more information about the wonderful ciderhouses and bands that are coming to WindFall Ciderfest and Roots Music, please visit our website www.windfallciderfest.org and check out the tabs for ciders, music and tickets.

Sarah Maes is on the KEEN board of directors.

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