By SHERIDAN CYR
The 49th Apple Harvest Festival officially kicked off Thursday night, Sept. 21 with the annual Apple Harvest Gala at the Aqua Turf Club in Plantsville.
The event is held as a thank-you to sponsors and volunteers of the festival and gives a special honor to the Apple Harvest Hostesses, a group of volunteer high school girls who work on community projects such as Taste of Southington, the Italian-American Food Festival, Music on the Green, collecting items for charity, and, of course, the Apple Harvest Festival, itself.
Co-chair of the AHF Supervisory Committee Tom Lombardi thanked fellow members of the committee. Lombardi also gave a special thank you to the volunteers who make the festival happen.
“The Apple Harvest Festival is all about volunteers,” he said. “Without volunteers, the festival does not happen. For all the time and effort these volunteers give, it’s just amazing.”
Platinum sponsors of the festival this year are Cox Communications and Liberty Bank.
Gold sponsors are Price Chopper, Pepsi, 3PL Fulfillment, American Medical Response AMR, and Chips Restaurant.
“Without the sponsors, it would be financially impossible to run this festival,” said Lombardi.
Festival coordinator Jim Champagne welcomed the hostesses individually. They were each escorted by an immediate family member.
This year’s hostesses were, in alphabetical order, Allison Carta, Asami Castellano, Madison Cox, Julia Kahl, Kate Kemnitz, Ariana Llabani, Lindsey Marziarz, Bianca Spataro, Molly Wright and Hannah Zelina.
The Hostesses were each asked a question by hostess co-chair Jodie Denwin, and the hostesses had a chance to get their thoughts out before the panel of judges took off to evaluate and select the Apple Harvest Queen and runner-up.
An award for Miss Congeniality was also presented to Madison Cox. This award was selected by a vote of the hostesses.
Apple Harvest Festival runner-up was selected as Bianca Spataro, and Molly Wright was crowned as the 2017 Apple Harvest Festival Queen.
The hostesses’ responses all had an underlying theme: community pride.
“It’s such a nice way to really get involved in the town, and to experience the unity that Southington has,” said Allison Carta.
Bianca Spataro said the one thing that inspired her to be a hostess was the town itself. “It’s really important to foster a really strong connection with the town, and that’s what inspired me to do it this year,” she said. “Southington is my home.”
Molly Wright commented on the connections she’s made through the program. “I’ve connected with every single one of these girls and it has just been amazing having these friendships,” said the queen. “I hope it lasts a lifetime.”
“We only have them from June to October but the most impressive thing is to watch them grow. This is a remarkable group,” said Champagne. “In my 10 years this group as been the most fun.”
The hostesses already represented the town during last weekend’s Mum Festival parade in Bristol, and they’ll be in the front group this Sunday for the 2017 Apple Harvest parade.
Follow all the food, fun, and festivities of the 2017 Apple Harvest Festival in the Southington Observer or online at www.SouthingtonObserver.com.
Photos by JOHN GORALSKI and SHERIDAN CYR