SOUTHINGTON - Town leaders praised the longevity and popularity of the Apple Harvest Festival as it opened for its 50th year Friday, bringing an assortment of tasty treats, entertainment and vendors to downtown.
As the crowd began to pour in and check out the booths for something new to eat, Town Council Chairman Chris Palmieri took the main stage Councilors Kelly Morrissey, Dawn Miceli, Tom Lombardi and Chris Poulos to kick off the two-week festival. They were joined by Town Manager Mark Sciota and members of the Apple Harvest Festival Committee.
Palmieri offered the committee his congratulations on behalf of the council. He pointed out that the festival had been run by the Southington Chamber of Commerce for its first 35 years, with the council taking over 15 years ago.
“This six-day event is one of Connecticut’s top tourist events of the season,” he said. “It attracts 100,000 visitors annually and has fun events, entertainment, food and crafts for all ages. We think the committee for their hard work and dedication and extend congratulations to all members past and present what helps to make this event excel for the past 50 years.”
He also read a proclamation naming next week Apple Harvest Festival Week.
With that, the festival officially started. Young couples pushed strollers with balloons tied to them. Families with older children lined up for carnival rides. Older couples sat together on benches on the Town Green. There was something to see and something to eat that everyone could enjoy.
Residents Holly Beck and Marcel Duprey said they came to meet up with friends.
“And I’ve got to have the kettle corn and steak and cheese,” said Duprey. “After that we’re headed to the beer garden.”
“And to the apple fritters,” added Beck.
Cindy Gagliardi, her brother, Les Zimmer, and Zimmer’s wife, Sharon, all from Southington, said they came for the fritters and to see the band Relic perform.
“We also come every year for the crafts and to see the parade,” said Gagliardi. “We hope everyone has a fun, safe festival.”
Denise Roy, another town resident, came to the festival with her niece, Julia Roy, 13, and nephew, Dan Roy, 16. They were enjoying macaroni and cheese with pulled pork from a food truck.
“I live in Southington, but I’m originally from Newington and last year was the first year I came to this,” said Denise Roy. “We’re going to try a lot of the foods; there’s a lot of restaurants here. We’re also going to check out the laser light show later.”
Joe Woloszyn and his sister, Mary, said they grew up in Southington as the festival was just getting started. Joe Woloszyn served in the military and had been living in California until he moved back to Southington three years ago with his wife.
“It’s all got so big now. It’s amazing,” said Woloszyn. “While I was living in California, I used to take my vacations to Connecticut and I would always schedule them around the Apple Harvest Festival.”
John Szymanski and his wife, Marilyn, walked to the festival because they live only a mile away.
“I love the food and I love to come and listen to the bands and people-watch,” said Szymanski. “It’s fun. I also like the beef jerky from Mr. B’s, I just had it for the first time this year and now I’m addicted to it.“
The festival continues through the weekend with fireworks on Saturday night at 9 p.m. and the parade at 2 p.m. on Sunday. Visit www.southingtonahf.com for more information.
Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or firstname.lastname@example.org.