A few moments before the Spin Doctors took the stage last Saturday, lead singer Chris Barron told us that it was his first time in town. Sure, the band has played in Connecticut venues, but the Apple Harvest Festival was the New Jersey native’s first glimpse at the Southington downtown.
“I really like it,” he told us. Just behind him, guitarist Eric Schenkman was offering up a half-eaten bag of apple fritters to everyone around him as if he had just discovered gold.
As far as first impressions go, this was not a bad one.
As we were putting together this edition, the tents were being dismantled on the town green. The trampled grass is the only reminder that tens of thousands of people descended upon the downtown over the last two weekends. For everyone, the festival served as an escape from everyday living. For many, it’s an annual excursion. For some—including the Spin Doctors and some of their fans—it was their first glimpse of what this community has to offer.
The apple fritters are a good symbol of the festival. Throughout both weekends, hungry visitors wait in lines that stretch from the steps of one local church to a tent filled with members of another local congregation just to taste a treat made from scratch with the hands of Southington residents. And, of course, what better way to pay homage to the apple—the underlying symbol of a town that was built, in part, by the orchards that still dot the landscape.
That’s what makes this festival so much fun. It’s a showcase of the town at its best, and it’s much more than just the fritters. It’s a true taste of Southington and its culture.
Started by the chamber of commerce as a fundraiser which showcased downtown businesses, it’s grown into a showcase of everything Southington has to offer. Is it worth the cost? You be the judge. It’s not expected to make money. If there is a financial goal, it’s to break even. So how do we measure the value of an event that’s designed to showcase the community as a whole? The crowds are a good indication, but it’s really about what they see when they get here.
The fireworks and the laser light show highlight the spectacle and wonder of a unique town that features a ski area, an amusement park, a drive-in, tons of open spaces, golf courses, historical spaces, church communities, orchards, businesses, art centers, theater groups, top athletes, and more.
The parade, road race, and Granny Apple spotlight the people, from first responders, politicians, and everyday folk to award-winnning high school and middle school marching bands, civic and youth groups, businesses, and more.
No matter when they came, visitors saw a community that embraces its veterans. They saw hosts and hostesses who showcase the town’s future leaders, middle schoolers raising funds for Alex’s Lemonade, and a town-wide coalition (STEPS) trying to start conversations in the crowd.
Hungry visitors could try typical festival fare or get a taste of Southington’s restaurants, local bakeries, and local groups featuring their favorite recipes like sausage and peppers, pierogies, frito pies, cheese steaks, cider slushies, lobster rolls, buffalo wings, bakery items—including fritters—and more.
Even on the main stage, there were some top acts, including local bands intermingled with nationally-known acts from television talent shows, Vegas magic shows, and Billboard charts that drew their own fan base to the town green for their first glimpse of the Town of Southington.
“Let’s meet here again next year,” Barron told us before being escorted to the main stage to play Spin Doctors hits for thousands. “Same time; same place.”
“We’ll be here,” we answered. Wouldn’t miss it.
To comment on this editorial or to contact Southington Observer editor John Goralski, email him at JGoralski@SouthingtonObserver.com.