By JEN CARDINES
Southington is just six weeks away from opening the 49th annual Apple Harvest Festival and officials have kicked into high gear for the final preparations.
“It’s right around the corner basically,” said festival coordinator Jim Champagne. “We’re sold out. We have every booth space sold, and the arts and crafts will fill up this month.”
As always, the festival will run two consecutive weekends to provide patrons near and far with carnival rides, food, entertainment, a parade, and of course…the apple fritters.
More than a dozen new vendors are registered for booths, including Lenny & Joe’s Fish Tale, Gina Bianca Hair, LulaRoe, Chip’s Restaurant, along with a handful of eateries representing different nationalities.
“We’re international now,” Champagne said.
In the first weekend, the AHF opens on Friday, Sept. 29 from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 30 from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Sunday Oct. 1 from 12 noon to 5 p.m. The parade kicks off at 2 p.m. on Sunday, weather permitting.
Free parking and shuttle transportation are available both Saturdays and Sundays, but do not run on Friday nights.
“Southington High School is the only shuttle bus station for visitors of the festival,” said Champagne. “On parade day, we use [John F. Kennedy Middle School] and the parking lot across from the Alzheimer’s center for marchers.”
While plans are smoothly falling into place for officials, they are working on one hitch that could alter the road races.
“The state has decided to re-pave Berlin Street from the hospital all the way down to East Street,” Champagne said. “They’ve already done the catch basin so the road prep is next.” The coordinator said he hopes Southington Police Department can influence them to stop for a day or two when the festival is open.
“You can’t detour, so there’s no place to go,” he said, noting that Route 10 is closed from Columbus Avenue to High Street.
This year’s festival promises annual crowd pleasers like apple pie and fritter eating contests, live bands on the main stage, Kiwanis bed races, and the famous arts and crafts exposition during the second weekend. Over 60 vendors fill the lot behind the main stage each year, offering everything from handmade soaps and jewelry to furniture and pet goods.
In addition to the featured music throughout the weekend, the Tipping chair restaurant is sponsoring all of the bands that appear in the acoustic tent near the dining area.
Other major events in the lineup include the fireworks display on Saturday, Sept. 30 at 9 p.m. and Harvest the Arts in the SoCCA building during all festival hours.
For more information, a full schedule of events, and shuttle bus information, visit www.southington.org/AHF