By SHERIDAN ROY
You can’t smell the iconic apple fritters yet, but it won’t be long before the sweet and familiar aroma makes its way through downtown Southington during the 2019 Apple Harvest Festival.
Thousands of people will travel to town from around the state and beyond for the 51st festival over two weekends: Oct. 4 through 6, and 11 through 13. The event is so immense, it takes a full year to plan and organize.
The AHF supervisory committee started working on details for the 2019 festival as soon as the 2018 one finished, and after having all hands on deck to celebrate the festival’s “golden anniversary” last year, the committee is still planning to be even bigger and better this year.
Chair of the planning committee, Chris Palmieri, said plans are moving along smoothly.
“We are excited to be continuing two new things from last year that were really successful: the laser light show on the first Friday night, and a national act on the second Saturday,” said Palmieri. “We will also be introducing a butterfly display, and the Bradley Mountain Goats are coming back, as well. That was a big hit last year.”
Last year, the committee was able to secure American pop-punk band, Bowling for Soup. The concert attracted thousands of people to the mainstage on Apple Alley.
Palmieri said the committee is working out plans and contracts with this year’s national act, and once all is secure, the committee will announce who or what is coming to town. They should be in the clear by the August town council meeting, he said.
Traditional favorites, such as the carnival, the fireworks display, apple fritter and pie eating contests, live music and entertainment, the parade, and the arts and crafts fair will return as well.
The committee is still accepting sponsors for the festival.
“It’s helpful to realize the opportunities available that come with being a sponsor,” said sponsorship coordinator Melissa Ericksen-Cocuzza. “It not only supports the festival, which does take a lot of money to put together, but additionally, it is one of the largest events held in Connecticut. It only comes once a year.”
Cocuzza said sponsors have the opportunity to talk face-to-face with thousands of family-oriented festival attendees.
In her ninth year as the official sponsorship coordinator for the festival, Cocuzza is looking to take a slightly different direction this year.
“I’m focusing energy on enhancing the festival more for families and kids, and looking for things they would enjoy,” she said. “I’d like to bring in more interactive things for festival-goers like sampling, or trying out new technology.”
This year, the supervisory committee added on the Southington Recreation Department staff to assist in planning. Director of the department Dave Lapreay was brought in as the festival coordinator.
“Having that natural overlap between what Dave does Monday through Friday and planning one of the largest recreational events in the town is such a natural connection that I think the festival will benefit from,” said Palmieri. “In addition, we’ve gained [recreation department secretary] Julia Berardinelli on our team, and we’ve benefited from having her as well.”
When it comes to running the festival, it truly takes a village. Over 200 volunteers make the festival possible. There are still volunteer slots open in a variety of positions including: beverage sales, carnival ticket sales, merchandise sales, information booth runners and beverage runners (keeping beverage booths fully stocked). Adults and high school students are eligible to volunteer. Visit southingtonahf.com/volunteers to sign up.
The annual festival offers free admission, parking, shuttle service and entertainment for all. To follow along with updates as it gets closer, visit southingtonahf.com or follow along on Facebook.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Sheridan Roy, email her at SRoy@SouthingtonObserver.com.