By JEN CARDINES
No time is being wasted in the makings of this year’s Apple Harvest Festival, especially with the addition of a lot of new features and exciting components. The 48th annual event is sure to please all ages with its food, arts and crafts, parade, vendors, and more.
Festival Coordinator Jim Champagne said that, along with the staple foods like fritters and French fries, new vendors will include Polish, Irish, Mexican, Thai, and Greek foods. In addition to the increased food supply, industry vendors specializing in energy and service will have booths with Eversource being a primary example.
Paul Champagne, festival operations chair, said that with the exception of one or two products (i.e. ice cream) vendors are not allowed to duplicate products being offered. Two 20’ x 40’ dining tents will be available in hopes of keeping people off of the sidewalks. One-third of the scheduled vendors are non-profits, and the bed race will return again in 2016.
In addition, Southington Community Cultural Arts, (SoCCA) is holding its hard opening during the festival. Harvest the Arts will be moving to an indoor facility where live artists and pottery will be happening both weekends, coinciding with festival hours. Local businesses can sell their own things. “They sort of compliment us, and we try to compliment them,” said Jim Champagne. “It’s a partnership.”
Exciting additions to this year’s event include the use of two apps. The first will be for the volunteers, so they can go online and sign up for times they wish to volunteer throughout the weekend.
“We’re finally in a computer age here,” said Jim Champagne, now in his ninth year as the festival chair. “Two years ago it was still being done with paper and pencil. We didn’t even have anything on the computer, so, when we had to call everybody, we had to actually go out and call 275 people.”
The second app can be used to track the parade, and give parents an idea of where their children are. It’s currently in development, but the app will be available in the upcoming weeks. The beta version will be available for this year’s event.
“It’s going to allow you to track the parade,” said the AHF chair. “If your daughter’s in the first division, it will tell you where the first division is. It will tell you how soon she will get up-town.”
There is also a possibility that a drone will be cleared to hover over the Town Green to capture pictures of the weekend, if it can be approved by officials.
“Anything like a drone that flies around in the air has to have approval from authorities in town,” said the operations manager, Paul, also a member of the Town Council.
Jim added, “It’s all about public safety.”
The festival coordinator is waiting for school to be back in session to open the poster contest that will happen again this year. While the festival itself has no theme, the parade theme is “Candy Apple,” giving guidelines to the floats for color and decoration purposes.
The festival is scheduled for Friday, Sept. 30 through Sunday, Oct. 2. The second week, featuring the arts and crafts celebration will run from Friday, Oct. 7 through Sunday, Oct. 9.
Fireworks are scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 1, at 9 p.m. (rain date is Oct. 8). The parade is scheduled for Sunday, Oct. 2 (rain date is Oct. 9).
Shuttle buses will run from the high school all weekend, with the exception of Fridays.
“As always, we’ll have free parking and free transportation,” said Paul Champagne. “We run shuttle busses from the high school at the cost of the festival, and you’re not going to get that at many fairs in Connecticut.”