By JEN CARDINES
Under a cloudy and drizzling sky, food from various cultures was served, carnival rides were in motion, and the line for the Zion Lutheran Church apple fritter booth was endless.
Fighting the weather forecast, the first weekend of the 48th annual Southington Apple Harvest Festival (AHF) barely missed a step. The fireworks went off as scheduled at 9 p.m. on Friday evening. The road race and parade went off as scheduled. The only impact was Friday when the rides did not operate due to the rain.
Festival coordinator Jim Champagne said that Friday’s opening night had a lively crowd, while Saturday had a medium sized crowd. “People are still apprehensive about the weather, and you can’t change that,” he said.
Southington Community Cultural Arts (SoCCA), located in the historic Gura Building, had its hard opening following AHF opening ceremonies with an official ribbon cutting.
Executive Director Mary DeCroce said that SoCCA was so busy throughout the weekend. “People are so impressed with the building,” she said. “We’ve sold a lot of products.”
The art center features all local artists, with a variety of talents. Scarves made by the All Access Arts program, which provides creative and vocational artisan training for those with disabilities, were on sale. John Atashian’s concert photos collection was on display, along with hand-made guitars by Tim Bailey. DeCroce said that Bailey played his hand crafted instruments at the opening event Friday evening.
As for the festival as a whole, Champagne said that he was glad they stayed open Friday night, despite the weather. All the opening weekend events went off as scheduled.
The festival’s focal point was the Apple Harvest Parade on Sunday, which had a “Candy Apple Kid’s Parade” theme. The schools in town all had floats exemplifying this theme, with Derynoski elementary’s Candyland float taking first place in the school group division award.
Ed Dressel celebrated his 25th anniversary as the parade emcee, announcing each organization that came through the three divisions. Dressel began by announcing that the parade kicked off right on time at 2 p.m.
Led by the Southington Police Department, the parade participants included the Southington Fire Dept., multiple fife and drum corps, dance academies, local and state politicians, marching bands, sports teams, the American Legion Post 72, Knights of Columbus, local organizations such as Bread for Life and the Southington YMCA, news stations, and many others.
The parade also featured this year’s Grand Marshal, Sue Saucier, and Granny Apple Helen Swanson. Swanson’s grandson submitted an essay to the Granny Apple contest, which was open to all Southington children in grades 4-6, which won his grandmother the title.
The Get Fest app for smart phones was featured this year for people to use during the parade, where participants and attendees could view road closures, float drop-off locations, and other critical information.
Here are the results from the first weekend’s contests:
The Bed Races were held once again this year on Saturday, Oct. 1. Southington Fire House Co. 3 took first place in the race, with Company 2 trailing in second, and Plantsville in third. The SHS Key Club was voted “Most Decorated” and the Fire Company 3 “Most Original.”
Apple Pie Baking
It isn’t an Apple Harvest weekend without some homemade apple pies. The pie baking contest claimed its top three competitors on Saturday. First place went to Holli Laone, Nancy Belanger in second, and Erin Daly in third. Slices were sold to benefit local charities.
Dee Carnaroli came in first, with Melanie Reynolds in second and Melody Rivera in third.
Apple Fritter Eating
This event is broken into three age groups, and takes place both weekends of the festival. The first weekend’s results are as follows:
Ages 7-11: Jakson Slimak in first, Jackson Rafferty in second, Reagan Donahue in third.
Ages 12-17: Sean Horn in first, Spencer Perry in second, Joey Henderson in third.
Age 18 and over: Tyler Clemens in first, Christine Aldieri in second, and Preston Testa in third.
Apple Pie Eating
Ages 12-17: Melody Rivera took first, Nick Gaedeke in second, and Nick Dizenzo in third.
Age 18 and over: Christine Aldieri in first, Michael Kryzanski in second, Preston Testa in third.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Jen Cardines, email her at JCardines@SouthingtonObserver.com.
Photos by JOHN GORALSKI