By JEN CARDINES
They can be seen wandering throughout the Apple Harvest Festival, offering information about the event and pointing out directions. They are staples at local events, donning sashes to mingle with residents and champion the local fair.
Many a local girl has dreamed of sitting atop the float, waving to onlookers during the parade. It looks easy, right?
Well, there is a lot more than meets the eye with the Apple Harvest Hostesses, a group of young ladies that devote their time to the community and the festival as a whole. This year, there are seven hostesses, under the direction of Chair Alyssa Pappas, who served as Apple Harvest Queen during her senior year of high school in 2012.
Pappas said that many girls were interested, and she looked for candidates that could bring something positive to the community, the festival, and the group. “We pick outstanding girls,” she said.
Application requirements always included being a high school senior, Pappas said, but for the past two years it was open to juniors as well. Applicants can be students at any high school, as long as they are Southington residents.
Hostesses participate in two separate parades: the Bristol Mum Festival on Sept. 25 and the Apple Harvest during the first festival weekend, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
The girls are required to attend a portion of each day during the Apple Harvest Festival, including opening ceremonies. Katerina Belales, last year’s queen runner-up and current hostess, will be singing the National Anthem at the ceremony for her second time.
Each year a crop of Southington’s best are introduced to the community during an annual gala at the Aqua Turf. At the gala, hostesses are judged on a public question and answer session, and festival board members vote on a queen. The queen does not have to be a senior, however, if a junior is crowned, they are ineligible to be queen again the following year.
Many town figures are present for this night to celebrate the hostesses for all of the hard work that they put into the festival. This year’s gala will be held on Sept. 22, just seven days prior to the festival opening.
After a long summer of volunteering and planning, the ladies devote even more time at the Apple Harvest Festival. They volunteer in different locations to help make the event run smoothly whether it’s getting materials ready for the contests, distributing metals, helping with Harvest the Arts, or cheering on the bed races. When it’s all over, they can be found cleaning up as well.
The hostesses said they enjoy the people they work with, and how the group brings them closer together. Senior member Carson Stifel said, “I love going out into the community and seeing people happy.”
“They work all summer in the buffet line at the Elks pasta dinner during the Music on the Green series. That’s 14 weeks that they give up,” said AHF coordinator James Champagne. “Then, at 8 p.m. when the band takes a break on the green, they go on stage to talk about the Apple Harvest Festival.”
The 2016 Apple Harvest Hostesses include Ariel Perry, Carson Stifel, Leanne Raymond, Katerina Belales, Olivia Thomas, Allie Carta, and Lindsay Marziarz.
Who will be crowned as this year’s queen? We’ll find out on Sept. 22.