The Apple Chill festival began in Chapel Hill in 1972, a time when the city was (as the 1972 UNC yearbook said) “a town of small, even shops interrupted by one higher roof with the unmistakable air of village compactness and tradition.”
Springtime would bring the festivities to a Franklin Street closed to traffic, and people from far and wide would join the revelry. The large street fair brought thousands of people into Chapel Hill each year and provided exposure for artists and musicians of all types. A group that became a mainstay of the celebration was the Apple Chill Cloggers, a folk dance troupe that has performed in 14 countries since their first festival appearance in 1975.
As the years flew by Apple Chill began to change and three major issues began to make themselves clear: the astronomical cost, the violence, and the unbelievably bad traffic. The 2004 celebration cost the town $43,593. In 2005 the cost had doubled: the town spent $87,233 for police and other costs.
Apple Chill, for all its charm, had problems more serious than merely draining the treasury (DTH 4/15/05). Rising crime resulted in an increased police presence as the years drifted by: in 1993 there was a shootout after the festival, in 2003 alone 12 fights were reported, and two people were injured in a stabbing at the Local 506 in 2004.
All good things must come to an end, and the increasingly violent events caught up with the festival. In 2006 Chapel Hill chilled for the final time. Around 30,000 people (and 235 police officers) attended that year, unaware that they would be the final attendees to celebrate in Chapel Hill proper. That year officers arrested 11 people and issued 87 traffic citations, but that was only the beginning of the troubles. At an unsanctioned event called “After Chill,” the fun and games finally ended as the violence reached a head: three people were shot.
Traffic was another problem of Apple Chill; roads were congested so badly that not even ambulances could navigate. The News and Observer reported on one particularly shocking 2006 incident (N&O 4/25/06):
One of the shooting victims had to be taken from Franklin Street to UNC Hospitals on a John Deere Gator, which is like an all-terrain vehicle with a cab on the back that was retrofitted to hold a gurney.
The death of Apple Chill, though tragic, was also a reflection of Chapel Hill’s evolving culture. It was no longer a small town, and Mayor Kevin Foy was forced to acknowledge that fact even when facing resistance from many Chapel Hill locals. “The town is not the same as it was 35 years ago; as the town grows, as the region grows, we have to be willing to change.”
Despite being ousted from Chapel Hill, Apple Chill events can still be found hosted in other cities (though the Spoonerism of a name makes a bit less sense as a result). From 2007 until 2010 the festival was held in Roxboro, NC. Since 2011 it has been held in Fayetteville.
The Daily Tar Heel (articles cited above)