By SHERIDAN CYR
There are certain things that festival-goers can count on seeing year to year. This year, being the 50th year of the festival, officials made sure to keep those fan-favorites going, while also introducing some brand new entertainment.
On Friday night, opening ceremonies of the festival came to an exciting close when visitors witnessed a laser light show that beamed through the smoky sky. The crowd was so impressed that the show was extended an additional 20 minutes.
“It was just incredible,” said festival coordinator Melissa Ericksen-Cocuzza. “It was the best way to kick off our 50th festival. Everyone was loving it. It was awesome.”
Saturday’s events started off on the sweet side. Right off the bat, a pie baking contest selected three winners: Holli Lane, Nancy Belanger, and Jim Nunn.
Then, kids, teens and adults took their swing at the popular apple fritter eating contest. There were three age-based categories, and contestants were to eat a towering plate of the festival’s famous fritters as quickly as they could.
In the age eight to 12 category, eight kids stepped up to the plate. Collin Martin, age 11, walked away a champion. CJ Hernandez took second place, and Reagan Donahue took third.
“I couldn’t really swallow my food fast enough and it was frustrating,” said Martin. When asked what it took to win, he said, “Confidence.”
In the category of ages 13 to 17, four brave teens went at it. Trenton Laframboise took first place, Kayla Henry took second, and Spencer Laframboise took third.
“I actually felt like I was about to throw up,” said the winner. Luckily, he came prepared. “I looked online for tips on eating fast.”
Thirteen adults age 18 and over crowded the table on the main stage for the final round of fritters. All were determined, and ready with a strategy of their own. Ultimately, Preston Testa came out in first place, William Roberts took second, and Carlos Hernandez came in third.
“I was just in the zone,” said Testa. He added it took “hard work and practice” to come out a fritter-eating champion.
Additional entertainment during the first weekend made for an exciting experience. Rolling Video Games of New England, a traveling entertainment center, invited visitors in to a virtual reality experience. Water Ballers was another hands-on activity. People crawled into human-sized beach balls and rolled around in an inflated pool.
Just behind the main stage, the Chamber of Commerce set up a large tent with a handful of local businesses. They had a 30-minute slideshow on loop that showcased the history of the festival, compiled of newspaper clippings and photos.
Bradley Mountain Farm Goats were a popular draw with a constant crowd of folks. The goats are trained and can do tricks on command. They have even learned how to paint. Their rainbow artwork hung around the exhibit.
At the end of the day on Saturday, the entertainment came to a peak when 1990s and 2000s pop-punk band, Bowling for Soup, played on the main stage (see page 13 for photos and a sit-down with the band). The evening concluded with fireworks.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Sheridan Cyr, email her at SCyr@SouthingtonObserver.com.
Observer coverage of the 50th anniversary festival