By Rob Glidden
Despite losing a day to rainy weather, the Apple Harvest Festival returned to Southington and was able to offer the popular food and beloved traditions that have been a part of the community for the last 44 years.
After hours of pouring rain on Friday afternoon, festival organizers decided to cancel the event’s first evening. On Saturday, looming clouds threatened the festival with more trouble but ultimately the weather cooperated for the rest of the weekend.
“We have over 275 volunteers who helped with the festival this year,” said Supervisory Committee Chairman Chris Palmieri, at the rescheduled opening ceremonies on Saturday. “Rain can’t keep us down.”
Most of the festival’s major events, such as the Saturday night fireworks, the Connecticut Icon singing competition, the road race on Sunday and the Apple Harvest parade, went on as scheduled. However, as of press time the fate of this year’s bed races was uncertain, although this was not due to the weather. Festival organizers did not have enough teams set to participate in the event and were seeking more for the competition before determining whether the races would happen this weekend instead.
Once the event was officially open, the familiar crowds came. The Zion Lutheran Church, whose apple fritters are by far the most popular food offered at the event, kept their booth open on Friday afternoon despite the rain. The next day offered more activity for all the vendors, including the Polish Falcons, who were selling perogies.
“We spend months getting ready for this and this event funds a lot of our activities,” said Lauren Kratzert, treasurer of the Southington Falcons. “We have a blast.”
For many civic groups and organizations, the Apple Harvest Festival is the principal fundraising event of the year. In front of their headquarters on the town green, the American Legion was raising money for their own activities while also accepting donations for the Wounded Warrior project.
“It’s a good opportunity to raise money and the festival is good for the kids,” said Billy Pintarich at the Legion’s tent.
The festival has a number of traditions that return with each year. In the parade, retired fire marshal Neil Casarella rode in an antique fire truck as the 2012 Grand Marshal. Apple Harvest Queen Alyssa Pappas waved to the crowd while riding with her fellow hostesses.
In keeping with another tradition, Bettyann Hardy was named “Granny Apple” a few short days before the festival began.
“This is a big honor,” she said. “It’s very excited.”
Each year, festival organizers invite Southington students to write an essay endorsing their grandmother for the role. This year, the winning essay was penned by Kate Hardy, who said she was “really happy.”
The second weekend of the festival is focused on arts and crafts and features the “Harvest the Arts” event.