By SHERIDAN CYR
Week two of the Apple Harvest Festival came to a close on Sunday after a pair of jam-packed, three-day weekends of entertainment, sprinkled with history and nostalgia to celebrate 50 successful years of the festival, itself.
“Our goal for the 50th was to maintain traditional favorites, while adding some new additions to the festival. I believe our team accomplished that goal,” said AHF supervisory committee chair Chris Palmieri. “I am incredibly proud to be a part of this community and know this festival helps many residents throughout the year, not just during the festival itself, especially through fundraising efforts.”
Palmieri and Melissa Cocuzza, festival coordinator, gave thanks to all the volunteers and sponsors of the festival. Palmieri also especially thanked Cocuzza, who did “an extraordinary job as festival and sponsorship coordinator.”
“I am so thankful to the volunteers, sponsors, and exhibitors.,” said Cocuzza. “Without them we could not bring this family oriented event to the community. It warms my heart to see so many supporters come together for a fun cause. Families of all ages being together, and enjoying all the various attractions and areas of interest, while reconnecting with friends they bump into, makes this wholesome event a joy.”
Friday night’s events kicked off week two with a reunion of past CT Icon winners. The festival used to feature a singing contest similar to American Idol, which would take course over the entirety of the festival, voting off one contestant at a time. Many of the first place winners have gone on to have successful careers in music.
Festival goers got to witness the “Extreme Magic of Eric Wilzig” on the mainstage on Friday following the CT Icon reunion. The magician learned directly from David Copperfield, Criss Angel, and other masters of illusion in Las Vegas, and has appeared in over 2,500 national and international performances.
“He put on an amazing show,” said Cocuzza. “The audience seemed to be very engaged with the show. Some of those tricks he pulled, I will never be able to figure out.”
Festivities continued on Saturday and Sunday with the annual Arts and Crafts show, carnival rides, endless food offerings, an apple pie eating contest, musical performances and additional entertainment.
This year’s apple pie eating contest crowned three first place winners from three age-based categories. The two younger categories faced a half a pie, while the adult category had to chow down on a full sized pie. Thirty pies were donated by Price Chopper for the event.
In the category of age seven to 11, Ethan Hoffman came out victorious.
“It took hard work to win,” said Hoffman. “I did feel stressed, but just remembered to just keep chewing.”
Hoffman’s older brother, Aeden Hoffman, was champion of the age 12 to 17 category. When asked what it took to win, he simply said, “Eating.” The champion was also asked what was on his mind while he was competing, to which he replied, “Finishing the pie.”
First place winner of the category of ages 18 and up was no stranger to the contest. For Mike Kryzanski, it’s a yearly tradition that he prepares himself for with a strategy and plan in place. Kryzanski has been crowned either first place, runner up, or second runner up on numerous occasions.
“I never eat the morning-of,” he said, wiping his face. “I do like standing up and looking down on the pie. I feel like I have an advantage that way. It’s easier to eat faster.”
He said the pie contest is usually easier than the fritter eating contest, since the pie is a smaller amount of food and is not as dry as the fritters.
While the pie eating contest wrapped up, there was hustle and bustle behind the main stage as the arts and crafts show continued. There were handmade paintings, clothing items, soaps, pottery, wreathes, photography and much more with over 50 vendors to choose from.
“This is our first time at this festival,” said Linda Hayden beside husband, Jeff. The two make up “Hayden Creations” based in Enfield. The couple designs large birds such as pelicans and owls by heating and molding PCV piping, then painting them with eye-catching colors. “We used to have a small one for many years that we had bought, before a family member accidentally crushed the legs. We went to find a new one, and then decided we could make our own.”
Linda Hettrick’s booth kept busy as visitors dropped in to check out gifts and novelties made from Hettrick’s 19 alpacas’ fur.
“Honestly, I don’t mind if people come by and buy nothing. I just want to educate them on the lives of these animals and hope they appreciate them like I do,” she said. What began as a purchase of just a few alpacas in 2005, Hettrick quickly realized how beneficial it is to not only care for the animals, but to harvest their fiber and make beautiful sweaters, mittens, socks, and much more. “People are used to sheep-wool products. Alpaca fiber makes beautiful products, as well. I hope I can introduce the concept to people here.”
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