By JOHN GORALSKI
The Apple Harvest Festival is almost here, and officials are working hard to prepare for opening day.
The 2015 event runs from Friday, Oct. 2-Sunday, Oct. 4 and Friday, Oct. 9 to Sunday, Oct. 11, and it will include everything that visitors have come to expect from a parade and road race on the first weekend to the arts and crafts festival in the second weekend. Along the way, visitors are treated to a number of contests along the way and a carnival that spans both weekends.
Visitors will pour onto the town green for this year’s festival, and few will notice the behind-the-scenes work carried on by the Apple Harvest hostesses, volunteers, vendors, and committee members that goes into a another successful festival.
That’s why we are so happy that committee members took time from their busy schedules to talk with The Observer about this year’s attractions and offer you a rare glimpse behind the curtain.
This week, we talk with Michelle White, the Apple Harvest Volunteers Chairperson.
How did you get involved with the Apple Harvest Festival?
My family has deep roots in town, so I’ve always gone to the Festival. But my first real involvement was when my aunt, Kathy Stevens, was Parade Chairwoman, and she asked me to help her.
What are your duties and responsibilities?
I will be handling all of the volunteers for the entire festival—everything from reaching out to previous volunteers to ask them to join us again and recruiting new volunteers to being onsite during the festival and making sure that any volunteer issues are addressed.
What are the biggest changes this year from your committee?
Me. The Festival has been lucky to have Lucy Leach running the volunteer show for 20-plus years. When it comes to calling people to action, having her long-term relationships was a huge asset, but I’m looking forward to meeting all of the people that Lucy has brought to the Festival and helping introduce new people who haven’t had the opportunity to help in the past to how much fun it can be.
What are you most excited about at this year’s festival?
I am very excited about the introduction of a completely online volunteer sign up process. This was one of two priorities for me when I took on the role.
The solution we have chosen is fast and easy; within minutes you can log on the site, choose which position suits you, pick your date and time, and receive an email confirmation. Volunteers will also receive a reminder email, and we are able to send group emails for any updates. We are having fun with the site, finding new process improvements every day.
My second initiative was recruitment. One of the biggest advantages we have is a solid foundation of long-term volunteers, and there is just no way to overstate how vital they are to us. But as the Festival gains recognition and grows, it take more people to bring our visitors the same level of service. We have to be mindful of bringing in younger generations, so we have the benefit of fresh ideas to marry with our traditions.
How can people get involved?
The fastest way to get involved is to go to the Apple Harvest page at www.southington.org/AHF. In the middle of the page is a button you can click that will take you to the volunteer site to sign up. It is important to our new process that we have emails for our volunteers, so we can communicate as efficiently as possible for any changes. But if someone doesn’t have an email, I am happy to speak with people directly and sign them up. I will also be at Music on the Green at the trailer near the stage until the festival begins, so I can help people choose a spot or answer questions.
I suggest that people take a moment and read the descriptions for the opportunities as we really have something for everyone. For those who like a very fast paced environment, the carnival booth is perfect. If you prefer something a little more physically active, you’d probably make a great beverage runner or a parade chaperone. There are also plenty of spots for beverage and merchandise sales.
We have approximately 300 individual time slots that need to be filled in order to bring the best possible experience to our visitors. Southington has a reputation for putting on a great event, and we need everyone to make that happen.
How can people contact you?
Anyone who would like to speak to me directly can send me an email at email@example.com or call me at (203) 232-5650.
What would you say to someone who wants to volunteer but is still on the fence?
I know we are all incredibly busy, but most of us have been lucky enough to grow up with great memories of the Festival. In order for our children and grandchildren to have the same experience, we need to find a little time.
Since everyone loves fritters, we are offering a little incentive. Anyone who signs up using the new site will be entered into a raffle for a dozen fritters. Then, there will be one raffle each day of the festival that is only open to that day’s volunteers. The more you volunteer, the more chances you’ll have to win. With an average of 50 volunteers each day, your odds are pretty good.