Who said that Southington can’t throw a festival without attracting a storm? Last weekend, it finally happened.
The town has a long history of rain delays and cancellation when it comes to local festivals. There hasn’t been an Apple Harvest in recent memory without some sort of weather delay, a weekend of downpours, or even a random hurricane watch. Recently, there hasn’t been a full day of sun at the Italian Festival. Even the Music on the Green series gets plagued by summer squalls, and last year’s inaugural White Christmas event had rain at the start.
But last weekend the weather finally cooperated. The clouds parted, and the crowds came. There was record turnout for all three days of the Italian Fest, and why not? There wasn’t a cloud on the horizon during much of the weekend, and even the humidity took a long awaited rest. It was the perfect weather to celebrate Southington’s strong Italian heritage.
Today, the town isn’t widely known for its diversity, but at one time Southington was a haven for immigrants—particularly for the wave of Italian immigrants in the 20th century. Although Italian cuisine has wide appeal today, and Italy beckons as a dream vacation, this wasn’t always the case. The “Garlic eaters” as they were called were largely despised when they set foot in America, but Southington welcomed them with open arms. It was the Italian community that played a big part in the rapid growth of a small, farming community into a thriving, blue collar town.
Center Street is the perfect place to honor those immigrant founders because it was there that so many first generation Americans found manufacturing jobs at Peck & Stowe (at the site of Greenway Commons) or enjoyed the rich Italian community and culture that was growing downtown. Just a few steps from the festival is the Goat Island open space parcel, and that was a place where Italian immigrants could gather. A community oven still stands on the land where locals cooked food for the community of immigrants.
We enjoyed those reminders during the speeches on opening day. We loved the food and festivities on Saturday, and we loved the European feel of Sunday’s Italian mass (standing room only) with the annual procession through the streets. We commend the Sons of Italy, Sorelle D’Italia in America, and Southington UNICO for reminding us what’s important about a community. Great job.
Next up, Apple Harvest
So, of course, it was no surprise to us (based on the turnout for the Italian Festival) that the Apple Harvest Festival is already filled up. Last weekend, we met up with AHF coordinator Jim Champagne at the Italian Fest, and he told us that things were heating up. Tents are sold out already, and a few sponsor tents are all that remain.
At the July 20 meeting of the Apple Harvest Festival supervisory committee, officials established a waiting list for not-for-profit groups and even placed Southington’s independent candidate as No. 1 on the list. (We think that they need to find a way to get him in without having to purchase a sponsor booth, but we are sure that they will.)
The bands have been selected. The parade plans are being hammered out. Now all we need is another break in the weather. Is that too much to ask?