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 Jim Champagne, the Apple Harvest Festival Coordinator.
How did you get involved with the Apple Harvest Festival?
I had always attended the Festival and wanted to get involved. Boy, did I get involved.
What are your duties and responsibilities?
My role as Festival Coordinator is simply defined by contract language with the Town of Southington as being responsible for “coordination of all activities” during the Festival. I do maintain a 10 page to-do list that covers a broad range of responsibilities, from securing permits from various agencies to working with the Police and Fire Departments, and Finance Department for the proper collection and distribution of all monies and fees related to the Festival.
I answer to a very supportive Supervisory Committee. I have 21 committee chairs that report to me, and I am responsible that they complete their tasks. Those committee chairs are the heartbeat of the Festival. They say that if you surround yourself with talented people then your job becomes easier. Well, I am very lucky to have such a strong supporting cast.
We also work closely with the Southington YMCA to help coordinate the Apple Harvest Road Races. We work together with the Parks & Recreation Dept., Highway Dept., and Engineering Dept. to prepare for our Festival.
What are the biggest changes this year from your committee?
Each year our committee chairs adjust and improve on their tasks. Each year we have seen improved management of their committee-specific responsibilities, and those changes benefit us going into the next year. We have a dedicated, hardworking group of committee chairs, and I am indebted to them.
What are you most excited about at this year’s festival?
Each year we see our incumbent vendors return to a festival that they clearly enjoy, and they have had great success selling their products. Each year we try to solicit new companies that have a different product or service, and this year is no exception. We have a number of new companies and some new food offerings.
Is there any specific help that you still need, events you want to promote, or things you need to accomplish before Oct. 2?
We have a need for high school aged volunteers to serve as Ambassadors. We primarily ask them to perform tasks associated with our beverage booths. We have been very fortunate to have high school students stay with us for three and four years. Our Ambassadors do become college students, and in 2015 we still have some unfilled positions. We encourage high school students to sign up and join us this year.
How can people contact you?
We have a robust internet site at Southington.org. Click on Apple Harvest Festival, and all matters pertaining to the festival are available. This year we have added a link for our volunteers. It allows an individual to register as a volunteer right on the website. You can pick your date, time, and function, and the site will tell you if it is available. We are encouraging all volunteers to provide us with their email addresses to communicate with them quickly and easily.
Our festival email address is: email@example.com. Our phone number is (860) 276-8461.
Is there anything that the public needs to know to help everyone to enjoy the festival?
Taking over the downtown area during the festival hours creates problems for downtown businesses. There are parking lots near the festival, but they do fill quickly. We have a shuttle bus service that leaves from Southington High School on a regular basis and brings people right to the downtown area.
We are grateful to the Downtown Southington merchants, and we ask that you patronize them during the festival.
A note to dog owners: We have a Town Ordinance that limits dogs in the Festival area during our open hours. Police dogs and service dogs are the only exemption.