By SHERIDAN CYR
Southington High School senior and year-two Apple Harvest Festival hostess, Bianca Spataro, was crowned as the 2018 Apple Harvest Festival Queen during the host/hostess ceremony portion of the annual Gala. The first runner up was Asami Castellano, and the second runner up was Emma Wojcicki.
Spataro is no stranger to community involvement. She is the lieutenant governor for the New England and Bermuda district board of Key Club, president of the Interact Club, vice president of the Southington Activists for gender equality, a student representative for the Board of Education, secretary for the National Honor Society, member of the world language honor society, member of the STEPS Youth Council, and a 15-year member of the Dance City and the Arts.
As part of the host/hostess ceremony, each individual was asked a unique question related to the festival. Spataro was asked why the 50th AHF was sure to be a special one.
“While everyone who lives in Southington know it’s the 50th year, residents in other towns know that, as well,” she said. “I think Southington is such a great community, and I’m so proud to be a part of it. I want everyone else to know what a great town we have. I recognize the fact that I don’t know if I would be where I am today if it weren’t for me being part of such a strong community, because your environment really shapes who you are as an individual.”
Each year at the gala, a king or queen is crowned and recognized for their outstanding efforts in the program throughout the summer leading up to the festival.
At the end of the school year, incoming juniors and seniors apply to be in the program. All summer long, they volunteer their time, participating and helping out at the weekly farmers market and Music on the Green. This year, they also helped the master gardener at the new Calendar House, raised funds for the dog pound and Southington Community Services, and worked hard to promote the festival and solicit volunteers.
“I’ve gotten to know every one of them, and I’m truly proud of them,” said Erin Bard, chair of the host/hostess program. “They are amazing individuals, and will rock this world with everything they do.”
The Gala not only highlighted the host/hostess program, but also served as a thank-you to all of the volunteers, sponsors, families and friends of the festival.
“Thank you all for your contributions to the 50th AHF,” said AHF supervisory committee chair Chris Palmieri. “Often we are asked what makes the festival the success that it is, and the answer is evident in this room. It’s thanks to all of you.”
Palmieri said the festival is about bringing the community together, and the work involves the help of hundreds of people. He offered a special thank-you to Melissa Ericksen-Cocuzza, who is not only the festival coordinator but also the sponsorship coordinator for the 2018 festival.
“We are incredibly impressed with the passion she has dedicated over the last nine months. Normally, it takes a full 12 months to plan the festival, but Melissa did not have the opportunity to truly begin work until January,” said Palmieri. Cocuzza had served as sponsorship coordinator in the past, and this year, she not only surpassed her own record for number of sponsors, but exceeded the entire festival’s 50-year record. “Her passion and excitement is contagious. She is hardworking, organized, enthusiastic and dedicated.”
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Sheridan Cyr, email her at SCyr@SouthingtonObserver.com.