Each year, Tehachapi embraces the arrival of autumn by harvesting its signature fruit and then celebrating it by saying, "How do you like them apples?"

The celebration began Saturday and will continue through Sunday as thousands flock to downtown Tehachapi for the 5th Annual Apple Festival.

The once-fledgling event has since become a much-anticipated attraction for local folks as well as visitors who plan their vacations around the two-day festival that features everything apple.

To accommodate the festival's growing size, organizers adjusted its location by slightly moving the core of the event from Tehachapi Boulevard to a several block stretch of Green Street.

New to Tehachapi was the Brown family, who relocated to Tehachapi from Illinois three weeks ago, just in time for the Apple Festival.

"This is our first festival, and we have really been looking forward to it," said Ashley Brown, mother to four children, Krayden, 8, Maddox, 6, Raleigh, 4, and Sawyer, 2.

All the Brown children, evenly spaced in age by two years, said they were looking forward to playing in the bounce houses and were eager to see what fun awaited in the Kid Zone, located at the far end of the festival.

Eli Martinez, 5, of Bakersfield also said it was his first time attending an Apple Festival. Standing in front of the first vendor, found in a long row of booths that lined both sides of Green Street, Martinez began the fun-filled day by stopping by and grabbing a bag of apple slices offered to children by McDonald's restaurant. In fact, Martinez was so enraptured with the delicious fruit that he didn't stop eating even after he was asked if he was ready to go play in the Kid Zone.

Returning vendor Mama Charmene Vegas brought with her award-winning apple condiments from her hometown of Palmdale to feature in this year's event. Vegas also brought her own apple concoctions, which she created using the fruit from local orchards, including apple butter, apple chips and apple barbecue sauce.

"What I'm known for is the salsa which is featured on the Food Network, and I have a hot wing sauce that took second place last year, nationwide," said Mama Vegas.

Her apple butter sells for $7, $9 and $12, depending on size, and her award-winning wing sauce sells for $9.

"We also have a wing sauce made with mango, and one with a regular sauce, but it's hot," warned Mama Vegas.

Mama Vegas said she plans to extend her Apple Festival experience by entering its Apple Pie Eating Contest later that afternoon.

Helping Mama Vegas run her booth was Kristine Alcerfer, who said she not only eats the food she sells, but also thoroughly enjoys it as well.

"I know how she makes them, and can say they are of the best quality, have a wonderful flavor and are perfectly paired together," said Alcerfer of Mama Vegas and her apple creations. "She really has a unique, signature food."

Another crowd favorite was the local caterers of Mill Street Kitchen who were serving up the home-baked, fruity goodness of its TehachaPie's.

Joel Trucker stood behind the crowded booth front, selling fruit pies and other desserts to a steady stream of customers Saturday morning. Asked what was a crowd favorite this year, Trucker said the Tehacha-Berry pie was gobbled the fastest with its raspberry/blackberry mix, which sells for $15 a pie. Another best-seller this year is the raspberry/peach pie, which sells for $13.

For those who don't want to purchase a whole pie, or who want to eat a yummy confection as they stroll down the festival's path, Mill Street Kitchen sells Pies in a Jar, in raspberry and peach flavor.

"These we made originally for weddings for people who wanted to substitute something instead of a cake," said Trucker.

Yes, Mill Street Kitchen has plenty of Dutch Apple pies as well.

The Apple Festival featured many new food vendors this year. Heavenly smells floated in and out of their booths all along the street, making one's mouth water with all the choices.

Eric Perez, of Bakersfield, said he could not resist the temptation of the spiral potato sold by one vendor as he sat on the sidewalk devouring the corkscrew-like vegetable.

In between bites, Perez said this is his second time attending an Apple Festival. Asked how he likes the festival, he said, "It's good."

Asked how he likes the spiral potato, Perez smiles and says, "It's also good."

The festival also featured a host of novelty items, some apple-like, and some not so much.

"I really like this apple sign," said Barbara Sands, of Ridgecrest, as she held up a homemade sign featuring a bright, red apple and issuing a warning about how it can be thrown, which was sold at one of the vendor booths.

Sands said she was really impressed with all of the work, as a first-time festival goer.

Said Sands, "For such a small town, there is a lot of talented people here. This is such a wonderful event. I wish we had something like this in Ridgecrest."

The Apple Festival continues through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday's activities will also include the Apple Pie Baking Contest, with the blue ribbon pie to be auctioned for a good cause. General admission is free.

For more information, visit tehachapiapplefestival.com.