The Apple Harvest Festival: Now that’s entertainment

The Apple Harvest Festival bed race has been a crowd favorite for decades. A Bradley Hospital team, above, competes an an early race. (Courtesy of the Southington Historical Society)

By SHERIDAN CYR

STAFF WRITER

Fireworks, bed races, road races, music, laser lights, contests, and much more. It isn’t just the parade and the food that draws visitors to the Apple Harvest. Entertainment is the main draw, and officials promise that the 50th Apple Harvest Festival will feature all the anticipated traditions—along with some new and exciting attractions—as locals celebrate the “Golden and Delicious” event.

“We want to look back through nostalgic eyes for this 50th Apple Harvest Festival, while bringing back those fan favorites we always have,” said AHF supervisory committee chair Chris Palmieri.

www.southingtonahf.com

Some of those fan favorites include, of course, the apple pie and apple fritter eating contests. The fritter contest will be on the first Saturday, and the pie contest will be on the second. The committee also anticipates holding the bed race, and with that, the judging of the beds.

The fireworks display, introduced for the 40th anniversary and continued ever since, is scheduled for the first Saturday night, but may have some competition this year as the committee has planned a laser show for the night before. Laser beams will shine up into the sky, synced with music down below at the main stage.

The festival is known and loved for its family-oriented atmosphere. Festival director Melissa Ericksen-Cocuzza confirmed there will be a Lego building station, a Rolling Video Games of New England booth with nonviolent games and virtual reality, a “water ballers” pool where folks can climb inside a large inflatable ball and roll around, and a youth booth that will showcase tweens’ and teens’ community involvement and accomplishments.

The popular Bradley Mountain Farm goats will also be present at the green.

Both weekends will be packed with ongoing entertainment. On the main stage, there will be a variety of performances throughout the festival, including a “headliner performance with nation-wide appeal” that has yet to be announced. Others have committed to play on the main stage, like the band, Mammoth Jack, and vocalist Matt Rossi, a Southington native now living in Tennessee.

There will also be showcasing of local talent at the main stage throughout the two weekends. For those who were fans of “Connecticut Icon”—the festival’s own personal play on “American Idol” that lasted about eight years—several of the contest’s winners will return for performances.

The second weekend will showcase the construction of an eight-square-foot sand sculpture by Sandinista that will span the entire second weekend.

In addition to the annual carnival that sets up on Riccio Way, a few rides will be set up at the Barnes Museum, reflective of its nostalgic aura and mission to preserve history.

“There will be plenty of other little surprises and activities at the festival, so plan some extra time this year to enjoy the new things,” said Ericksen-Cocuzza. “I can’t wait to see everyone come together and enjoy it all.”

Contests are a big part of the Apple Harvest Festival’s entertainment. Above, costumed kids compete at the 2017 pie eating contest.

It is clear that officials are looking forward to sharing their excitement with festival-goers as they introduce new offerings. Festival entertainment has come a long way through the years and has taken different forms.

In the very first year, over 600 children participated in an apple bobbing contest on the Town Green. There was also a pet show, sponsored by the Exchange Club, in which more than 250 animals were entered by their young owners.

Several different contests were held throughout the festival’s history—even a gum chewing contest in 1997. There was a potato spoon race that year, too. A “beautiful baby contest” was held on 1983.

Everyone loves a good parade. In 1970, the festival’s second year, all of the parade “floats” were actually wooden carts pulled by teams of oxen. Officials were quoted in local newspapers calling it “extremely rare.”

Other years included fashion shows, film contests, a Harry-Houdini-inspired Chinese water torture cell escape, and much more.

With just under a month to go, the finishing touches are beginning to come together in the planning of the 50th AHF. Ericksen-Cocuzza said the committee is still looking for volunteers who play a variety of roles at the festival.

Two contests were made open to the public last week: the Granny Apple contest and a poster contest:

Anthony “A.J.” Angelillo Jr. reads his winning essay to his grandmother, Helen Swanson, during opening ceremonies for the 2016 Apple Harvest Festival.

Granny Apple

Children who are Southington residents in grades four, five or six may hand-write an essay under 150 words stating why their grandmother should be named Granny Apple. Entries must be received by Sept. 19, either mailed to Apple Harvest Festival, P.O. Box 907, Southington, CT 06489 or hand delivered to the recreation office in the Town Hall.

Poster Contest

For the poster contest, there are three categories of entries: adult, high school, and middle school. Participants must create a vertical 11” by 17” poster that includes: the theme (Golden & Delicious), the Southington AHF heading, four colors, and the dates of the event (Sept. 28, 29 and 30, and Oct. 5, 6, and 7). Posters must be delivered to the recreation office before 4:30 p.m. on Sept. 14.

Youth Booth

Officials are also searching for artists and entrepreneurs from DePaolo and Kennedy Middle School and Southington High School. At the Youth Booth, artists can display and sell their work, and entrepreneurs can share what business service or product they are developing or have developed.

To get involved, contact Ericksen-Cocuzza at (860) 276-8461 or ahfestival@southington.org or Chris Palmieri at cpalmieri@southingtonschools.org.

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