By Vannessa Stevens
Planning is underway for Southington’s 45th Apple Harvest Festival.
The annual event will take place Oct. 4 to 6 and Oct. 11 to 13.
The downtown Southington festival attracts anywhere from 75,000 to 100,000 people every year. It offers food, fun, and live entertainment. It also provides a showcase for local organizations and volunteers. Entertainment includes a parade, arts and crafts fair, fireworks and Harvest the Arts.
This year’s theme “Harvest the Memories,” chosen by the Apple Harvest Festival committee, will emblazon brochures and posters promoting the festival, along with the banner across the town green as the festival draws near.
“We chose ‘Harvest the Memories’ as this year’s theme because we meet so many people who talk about 25 years ago, being a child and seeing the parade,” said festival coordinator Jim Champagne.
Champagne, who has a to-do list 42 pages long, considers himself the at-large member representing the public and reports in on the festival once a month.
Planning meetings are held year round, within the same week each month.
Chris Palmieri, who for seven years has served as the chairman of the festival’s Supervisory Committee, pulled up a spreadsheet on his computer. The document lists the meeting topics by the month: December following the festival each year is the wrap up and reflection meeting figuring out what worked and what could be added next year. January is a budget review. Parade float ideas are discussed. The tents and grounds map is updated. February is when the theme is chosen and fireworks contracts are awarded. In March, the plan for the “Connecticut Icon” competition is discussed, and bussing and credit card vendors are awarded. In April, the trash and recycling, porta- potties, and beverage cleanup contracts are awarded. In May, the tents are put out to bid, followed in June by the electricity bids.
“Our volunteers and sponsors work hard year round,” Palmieri said, “and they all deserve thanks.”
Palmieri said he especially wanted to acknowledge Melissa Ericksen who has recruited Packtracks Country Club and Liberty Bank as the festival’s Platinum Sponsors this year and its gold sponsors, Parson’s Buick of Plainville and American Medical Response. He said Ericksen also has recruited The Hospital of Central Connecticut and Mid State Medical Center as silver sponsors and Newfield Construction as a Bronze sponsor of the festival. Palmieri said Lincoln College has expressed an interest in sponsoring as well.
Palmieri said he is proud that for the first time, the committee is able to offer two scholarships for any high school student who contributes to the festival in a volunteer capacity.
As the festival’s attendance grows each year, the committee looks for something new to add to its already long list of Apple Harvest “Little Fritter Fun Run,” 5K runs, 2K runs, bed races, apple pie and fritter eating contests, fine arts performances, and more.
Mary DeCroce, chair of Southington Community Cultural Arts, heads up Harvest the Arts, which highlights the second weekend of the festival. She is excited about the new art features being added this year: a 3D chalk artist from Boston (thanks to a grant made possible by the Community Foundation of Greater New Britain) and a sculpture exhibit of bicycles turned into art work representing (and being sponsored by) local businesses.
Organized by Kyle Haines and Jane Keller Herzig, the bikes will match up local businesses to the artist who will represent them in designing the bikes. Once the bicycles are designed they will be first featured in the Apple Harvest parade and later displayed during Harvest the Arts, just as the scarecrow contest and the trash sculptures the years before.
“It will be a scavenger hunt of sorts for the public to match up the 30 or so bicycles to the businesses they represent.” De Croce said. “We’re really excited. There will also be prizes awarded for the correct guesses.”
In conjunction with the Southington Community YMCA, DeCroce is looking for young artists, students ages 12 to 15, who want to design their own piece of a 60-foot long mural to be displayed during Harvest the Arts. The mural will be created over the course of the summer. Students may be from any of the surrounding towns and are urged to contact De Croce by email at Mdecroce@sbcglobal.net or call Christina Simms at the YMCA. (860) 628-5597 Ext. 365.
The unofficial kick off to the festival happens Sept. 26 at the Aqua Turf, where the Apple Harvest queen is crowned.