By TAYLOR HARTZ
Despite the less-than-ideal weather on Friday and Saturday which brought cold wind and rain to the downtown streets, loyal festival goers didn’t break tradition. Friday’s opening ceremonies were
postponed until Saturday, but otherwise, the first three days of the two-weekend festival went on as planned.
Thousands of Southington residents gathered downtown this weekend for the 47th annual Apple Harvest Festival. Hundreds marched in Sunday’s parade, and scores of vendors lined the streets, filling the festival with crafts, food, and the smell of apples.
Rain or shine: Fritters are a must
There was no shortage of community pride on Friday evening, despite heavy rains that brought the first night of the Apple Harvest Festival to an early close.
Loyal Festival attendees braved the rain and dropping temperatures to line up, umbrellas in hand, to get Zion Lutheran Church’s famous apple fritters.
Seventh graders at DePaolo Middle School Sarah Sisto, Maddie Hooks and Julia Panarella said they will continue to come and wait in line every year, rain or shine.
“You can smell them through the whole festival so you have to come get them,” said Sisto, who hoped the warm apple and dough mixture would warm her up on the cold evening.
Hooks said they didn’t mind the shorter, though wetter, wait on Friday evening. The Apple Fritter crowd was only a few rows deep on opening night, when it usually winds its way down Main St.
“The line will be crazy for the rest of the week so we’re taking advantage of the rain,” said Hooks.
Tradition continues through generations
A crowd of spectators four rows deep lined the sidewalks on Main St. as the lengthy parade made its way through downtown.
Dozens more lined the lawns of local businesses and the steps of Town Hall under a banner that displayed this year’s theme: “Growing Community Pride.”
Life-long Southington resident Sara Lanza watched the parade with her two-year-old son, Dominic.
The festival has been an annual tradition for Lanza for as long as she can remember.
“Every year since I was born,” she said, “and every year since he was born.”
Lanza smiled on as her toddler pointed and applauded while costumed characters danced through the streets.
“It’s such a home feeling here,” said Lanza, “I love the feeling of the town coming together.”
Growing community pride in the parade
Spectators cheered, waved and blew kisses toward the sleek black car that drove parade Grand Marshall Art Secondo down Main St. during Sunday’s parade.
A sign reading “Mr. Suddington” drew laughs from the crowd, admiring the former Chamber of Commerce President’s love for the town.
The third day of the festival marked the first dry day, bringing sunshine and the usual large crowds.
The parade, lasting nearly two hours, began shortly after 2pm.
With thousands of participants, including marching bands from Southington High School and a few elementary and middle schools, there was no shortage of entertainment.
Several dance studios, cheerleadering teams and carnival acts performed their way down Main St. as girl and boy scout troops, the Southington Historical Society, the American Legion, and many others proudly carried their banners.
Town councilors waved as they passed through the parade, while members and candidates for the Board of Education and several other town committees held and displayed their campaign signs on various floats.
Dozens of floats fit the theme of “Growing Community Pride.” One displayed a dozen apples, each with the name of a local business, another carried a group of proudly-waving festival hostesses, with the rest were escorted by walking participants dressed in full apple attire.
Bed Races aren’t washed out
Despite heavy rains that postponed Friday’s opening ceremonies, the gloomy weather that continued into Saturday didn’t cause a cancellation of the festival’s once annual bed races for the third year in a row—a fear of many festival committee members.
Earlier this month, Festival Coordinator Jim Champagne and Co-Chairman Tom Lombardi both said they were concerned that poor weather would once again halt the tradition.
For the first time since 2012, the sun allowed the races to go on.
The reigning champions were Southington Fire Department Company 3 in first place, followed by a group called “Get Your Finger Out of Your Apple”, and Southington Community Services coming in third.
PHOTOS BY TAYLOR HARTZ
PHOTOS BY TAMMI NAUDUS