Food, fun, and another Apple Harvest Festival in the books

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On Saturday, Jake Gorham gets some leverage as he bites into an apple pie during one of the contests last weekend. Gorham placed third in the 11 to 17 year old division. The second week of the festival was as big as the first with more contests, crafts, vendors and concerts. (Photo by Janelle Morelli)
On Saturday, Jake Gorham gets some leverage as he bites into an apple pie during one of the contests last weekend. Gorham placed third in the 11 to 17 year old division. The second week of the festival was as big as the first with more contests, crafts, vendors and concerts. (Photo by Janelle Morelli)

By TAYLOR MURCHISON-GALLAGHER

STAFF WRITER

The 51st annual Apple Harvest Festival was well underway on Saturday, Oct. 12, when a group of four musicians set up camp in the basement of the town hall. After thirty years together, the band was all laughs and inside jokes as they discussed one of the most important AHF features… Zion Lutheran Church’s homemade apple fritters.

Spin Doctors guitarist Eric Schenkman offers some apple fritters to AHF chair Christopher Palmieri before the concert. (Photo by John Goralski)

The rock band, The Spin Doctors, first formed in the late 1980s under the name of “Trucking Company,” and by 1989 the fabric of the group was woven together through lead singer Chris Barron, bass player Mark White, guitarist Eric Schenkman, and drummer Aaron Comess.

“Have you tried those fritters? They are out of this world, I can’t stop eating them,” said Barron. “They were unbelievable. I almost ate a whole bag of them; I had to show some restraint.”

But how is the success of the festival determined? According to town manager Mark Sciota, it’s not about making money, but rather, the number of people who spend the weekend on the Southington town green.

“Since we started this thing 51 years ago, we’ve had one goal and that’s to make sure that we treat the citizens in a way that no other town does; everything is free, parking is free, the festival is free, all our entertainment is free,” said Sciota. “It’s always been that way, and we hope to always keep it that way.”

The Spin Doctors played the main stage during the second week of the Apple Harvest Festival. It was the second consecutive year that the AHF drew a high profile concert. (Photo by John Goralski)

In an effort to make each coming AHF better than the previous one, the festival committee works hard to secure vendors and sponsorship in order to support national level bands such as this year’s headliners.

Barron said he’s frequently asked whether he prefers to play larger or smaller venues. “I always say I like playing full places,” said Barron. “I don’t care if it’s like 12 people crammed into a living room or 100,000 people in a soccer stadium, if there’s just a bunch of people close together with a slight mob mentality that I can take advantage of then I’m happy to be there.”

While the 90s rock band may be best known for their hit album “Pocket Full of Kryptonite” and hit singles “Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong” and “Two Princes,” the New England-native singer said the group frequently plays state fairs, where he can be seen visiting livestock or a petting zoo.

“We’re happy to be here,” said Baron. “Every day I get to be a musician, get paid for playing music, I’m happy.”

There may not have been a petting zoo, but throughout the festival attendees were able to get up close and personal during the interactive butterfly experience, and to observe the Bradley Mountain goats as they enjoyed an afternoon of painting. And while the musical act brought several thousand people to the center of Southington, there were a myriad of activities for the whole family to enjoy.

“We want to bring everybody in, this is not a festival just for Southington, this is way beyond that. We want to bring all our bordering towns in, we want to show the people what Southington has,” said Sciota. “You’d be surprised how many people who say the first time they’d ever been to Southington was the Apple Harvest Festival or the parade and they say, ‘You know what? It’s a great place. We want to raise our family here,’ that’s exactly what we’re looking for.”

Winners in the apple pie eating contest (ages 18 and up), from left, Sean Sweeney (2nd), Preston Testa (1st) and Rob Paturzo (3rd).
Winners in the apple pie eating contest (ages 11-17), from left, Jake Gorham (3rd), Alexandra Carabetta (1st) and Aedan Hoffman (2nd) (Photo by Janelle Morelli)

Contest winners

The last weekend of the 51st annual Apple Harvest Festival brought “Bushels of Family Fun,” to the main stage for the apple pie eating contests.

Typically, the contest is broken down into three categories; ages 7 to 11, ages 12 to 17, and ages 18 and up. But, according to AHF officials, due to only one contestant registering in the 7 to 11 category, the competition was reorganized to only have two groups: ages 11 to 17, and ages 18 and up.

In the first category, 2019 AHF Hostess Alex Carabetta (16) walked away as the winner. She was followed by second place finisher Aedan Hoffman (14), and third place finisher Jake Gorham (15).

Preston Testa (22) took home first place in the 18 years and older category, followed by Sean Sweeney (22) in second place, and Rob Paturzo (44) in third place.

To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Taylor Murchison-Gallagher, email her at TMurchison@PlainvilleObserver.com.