Bowens Mills Cider Time: Horse-Drawn Wagon Rides, Cider Press & Black Smith Demos, Apple Dumplings, Farm Animals & More – 2021 Details

bowens mills cider time

Bowens Mill Cider Time Returns for 2021

October is a month made for outdoor explorations and trips to Michigan Cider Mills.

With the number of corn mazes, apple orchards, donut & cider destinations, and pumpkin patches dotting the West Michigan countryside, we’ve got plenty of places to keep us busy all month long.

But don’t think you’ve covered all of the fall fun hidden gems in West Michigan just yet – we’ve found one more for you to add to your list: Bowens Mills Cider Time, held on Sundays in October, in Middleville.

The venue is a 19-acre historical site. It’s home to a variety of interesting old buildings, including the mills and the old one-room schoolhouse.

This is also a popular place for weddings.

Historic Bowens Mills is a privately owned and operated State Historic Site that receives no state funding and relies on visitor contributions, private events, and events like this to keep going.

Bowens Mills Cider Production on Hold

As of October 8, 2021, Bowens Mills was forced to pause cider production after operating without a license. More information can be found here.

Where is Bowens Mills Cider Time Located?

Bowens Mills is located in Middleville, MI, about halfway between Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo in Barry County.

The Old Mill is located East of the Gun Lake Casino just two miles north of Yankee Springs (Gun Lake) State Park.

Address
Historic Bowen Mills Cider Time
55 N Briggs Road, Middleville, Michigan 49333

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Bowens Mills Cider Time Dates & Details

Every October, the site hosts Cider Sundays, a celebration of the fall harvest.

This even is also known as Bowens Mills Cider Time.

Bowens Mills Cider Time 2021 Dates

Every Sunday in October


Dates
Sunday, October 3, 2021
Sunday, October 10, 2021
Sunday, October 17, 2021
Sunday, October 24, 2021
Sunday, October 31, 2021

Hours
Noon – 5 pm

Admission
Gate fee is $5.00 for adults
Children 12 years and under $3.00.
*Horse-drawn wagon rides included with admission

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What to Expect at Bowens Mills Cider Time in 2021

When you come, you’re in for a fall treat.

Expect:

  • Apple cider pressing demonstrations on the 100+ year old water-powered cider press – every hour
  • Stone ground corn grinding demonstrations on the huge mill stones – every hour
  • Horse-drawn wagon rides (included with admission)
  • Apple dumplings and other yummy concessions (fee)
  • Pioneer Farm with animals
  • Live music in the Log Cabin
  • Characters dressed in period costumes
  • More demos, which may include blacksmithing, woodworking, soap making & the spinning of wool

Most activities are out in the open, but some are indoors.  

historic bowens mills

Apple Cider Press & Cornmeal Grinding Demonstrations

Arguably the biggest draw of October Cider Sundays are the Cider Making Demonstrations.

Workers show the whole process from start to finish.

Apples are shoveled into the apple elevator, where they meet sharp knives and are pulverized.

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Apples are shoveled onto a conveyor belt located on the outside of the mill building.
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The pulp showers down into the press inside, where it’s contained in burlap and made ready for pressing.

Trays of juicy apple pulp are piled on top of each other.

Eventually, the hydraulic press is used to apply pressure to the trays and squeeze the juice out.

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Apples are juiced inside of the cider mill using water power
historic bowens mills cider press

The apple remnants are slid out of the mill into waiting barrels.

historic bowens mills cider making

Water Powers this Old Apple Cider Press

People have used the power of water in ingenious ways throughout history.

One example of this still stands in Middleville at Bowens Mills.

This building is a collection of mills, where water power was used to grind flour and cornmeal and press apple cider.

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The power for all of this work comes from the 17-foot water wheel, which is a restoration built by a more mill recent owner, Neal Cook.

historic bowens mills waterwheel

Historic French Burr grindstones are still in use today.

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Mill demonstrations are available and some products are available for purchase.
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Horsedrawn Wagon Rides & Farm Animal Visits Included

One nice surprise: horsedrawn wagon rides are included with your admission.

The route through the nearby woods is a little bumpy, too, so the length was just right for me.

historic bowens mills horse drawn wagon rides 1
The rides, pulled by friendly Belgian draft horses, are relatively short.
historic bowens mills horse drawn wagon rides

After the wagon ride, it’s time to visit the variety of farm animals living at Bowens Mills.

Many are thrilled to get a pat on the head.

historic bowens mills farm animals
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farm animals at historic bowens mills

Apple Dumplings & Treats at Bowen Mills Cider Time

No contest, you have to order the Hot Apple Dumpling with Ice Cream – and apple cider – if you go to Cider Sundays.

historic bowens mills apple dumpling

There are other things on the menu, too, if you want to make it a meal.

bowens mills cider days menu
Menu from Bowens Mills Cider Time in 2020

Reinactments: Old-Time Skills on Display

Several reenactments were underway during our visit.

historic bowens mills reinactors

We saw weaving, a blacksmith operation, and a soapmaker in action, to name a few.

historic bowens mills reinactors
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historic bowens mills blacksmith shop

Old Buildings, Including the Old Schoolhouse

The old schoolhouse is the real deal.

It was moved to this location from its original spot in Barry County, MI.

You can sit in the old desks, write on the chalkboards, ring the teacher’s bell, and look at the old wood stove while imagining what it would be like to attend school 100 years ago.

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Visitors can experience what school was like in the past
historic bowens mills schoolhouse

A variety of buildings make up the rest of the old-timey village at Bowens Mills.

You can enter and explore each one. Some have volunteers inside ready to tell you a little more history of that place.

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Pioneer buildings are open for exploration
historic bowens mills house

Old-Fashioned Playtime

A Wood Plank Rope Swing, Part of the Charm

The wood plank rope swing didn’t get much rest during our visit to October Cider Sundays at Bowens Mills.

Kids of all ages, and adults, vied for a turn on the old-fashioned fun maker all afternoon long.

It’s easy to see why – that’s a perfect tree for a rope swing.

We’re guessing you’ll give it a try when you visit, too.

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You’ll also find a pretty interesting slide on the property.

historic bowens mills slide

The History of Bowens Mills

What Life Was Like at Bowens Mills Back in the Day

Here’s brief history of Bowens Mills: Established as a sawmill in 1854, Bowens Mill was purchased by its namesake, Edwin Bowen in 1864.

He expanded the business by adding a three-level gristmill to the operation. He added the apple cider press in 1902.

Edwin Bowen also served as the postmaster for the area, collecting mail from the stagecoach as it passed from Kalamazoo to Grand Rapids. This small village also had a general store, a blacksmith shop, and a couple of other businesses.

The village population never exploded like some anticipated, as the railroad decided to skip Bowens Mills in favor of a route along the Thornapple River. The village headcount maxed out at around 100 people.

The mill operated until 1953, closing down after 113 years of service.

historic bowens mills

The mill sat idle and suffered decay until 1971.

Four families bought the mill and worked to get it designated as a State Historic Site.

They worked hard to restore the buildings on the property and also had the oldest schoolhouse in Barry County relocated to their property.

historic bowens mills

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