By KRISTIN FARLEY
6 News Anchor/Reporter
SEVIERVILLE (WATE) - Anytime is a good time to visit the Apple Barn Cider Mill and General Store in Sevierville.
People drop by in droves and it's not unusual to find tour buses lined up outside the parking lot.
"It's harvest for us, as well as the fall colors. It's the Smokies and Sevier County's time to shine," said Kent Kilpatrick, with the Apple Barn, when Made in Tennessee visited earlier in October.
Workers make fresh apple pies, apple cider, apple stack cake, caramel apples, apple wine and dozens of other treats.
You can sneak a peak through the windows and watch all the goodies being made, and you can sample items or sit down for a bite in the restaurant or the cider bar.
When you come here, it's like taking a self-guided tour through all the shops and eateries that line Apple Valley Road.
Most of the things you'll find at the Apple Barn are made like they were decades ago and have no preservatives.
"People want to know how their grandparents made things like apple butters and canning things," Kilpatrick said. "We do not do things like you'd find in a grocery store."
To add to the allure of the Apple Barn, the products you buy and sample here aren't just made onsite. The apples are grown here.
There are 20 acres of fruit-producing trees. "We try to grow things that make sense for each thing we make here. For apple cider, we need a sweet and tart variety, and they all ripen at different times. We need ones that ripen at the same time," Kilpatrick said.
Fruit trees have been grown on this property for decades, but that was not always the plan. "We had a tobacco crop failure one year and UT came out and gave us some advice on fruit trees," Kilpatrick said.
He knows the history here first hand because he's not just an employee. Kilpatrick's father and a family friend started the Apple Barn more than 35 years ago.
They didn't jump into growing apples at first, but in 1976 they finally decided to plant 4,000 trees.
A few years later, they began reaping the rewards. "In 1981, we sold apples out of the old tobacco barn. We only had fresh apples, fresh squeezed apple cider and a few homemade apple pies," Kilpatrick said.
"As soon as we sold out, we just locked the door and that was it for the season," he added.
A lot has changed over the years. The Apple Barn now sells items year round, and many people know it best for the Applewood Farmhouse Restaurant which used to be something completely different.
"It was my childhood home, and where we are standing now was our front yard where we played football, baseball, whatever the sport was at the time," Kilpatrick said. "Then my Dad said we are going to move out of the family house and open a restaurant. And as boys, we said, no Dad. Please don't take our riverbank and the place we play away."
The whole family now agrees it was a great decision to expand, and they already have their sights set on their next project.
They plan to change their root stock to a denser orchard that's supposed to greatly increase their apple production.
"It should be about five times the fruit in the same acreage. That's what we hope to do," Kilpatrick said.
If they're not using their own products, the owners of the Apple Barn are big supporters of the Pick Tennessee Products program, often using other local goods.
Most of the wood on the property is from original structures at the farm, and the cider bar is re-purposing a marble and wood mantle from a local soda fountain.
Although the fall is the big season at the Apple Barn, there are lots of things going on there for the Christmas season as well, including Santa. He'll be on hand every weekend after Thanksgiving.