SOUTHINGTON - The Southington Apple Harvest Festival opened Friday to idyllic weather as residents descended upon a tent city of vendors and tasty foods.
Lowell DePalma, retired Southington police captain and 2017 festival grand marshal, described the Apple Harvest Festival as “a slice of Americana.”
“It has that old hometown feel and is as American as apple pie,” he said. “The festival committee put together such a great combination of food, entertainment and fireworks. We have quite the jam-packed schedule these two weeks.”
Councilor Tom Lombardi and other festival organizers then welcomed visitors on the center stage and thanked those who helped put the event together. One of the festival hostesses also sang the national anthem.
Jim Champagne then introduced Mary Sheehan and her granddaughter Riley, who nominated her as this year’s “Granny Apple.” Each year, festival organizers give fourth, fifth and sixth graders the chance to write a letter about why their grandmother should be recognized at the festival’s opening.
“My grandma makes me laugh, tells silly stories, plays board games with me and makes me earn each win,” said Riley. “She was born and raised in Southington, likes to give back to the community and encourages me to do so too. She is a proud Southington resident, fun, supportive and a great baker. Her apple crisps are delicious.”
The festival then officially began.
Town Manager Garry Brumback, who had come to the festival for the last time before his retirement and move to Florida in February, said that he will miss the “incredible” festival.
“It is the town’s signature event and such a great jewel in its crown,” he said. “I’m thrilled to be here and I’ll enjoy every minute.”
Dick Eltman and his wife, Cissie Eltman, of Berlin, shared a bowl of nachos at the start of the festival.
“We live in Berlin and come here every year,” said Dick Eltman. “With all the food and music it is a nice night out and this year we have beautiful weather.”
“I grew up in Bristol and we just went to the Mum Festival too,” said Cissie Eltman. “It was very hot that week but this weekend will be great. I like to check out the craft show at the Apple Harvest Festival and I always grab the apple crisps and fritters.”
The line for the festival’s famous fritters, which have been served up for nearly 50 years by Zion Lutheran Church and have become almost synonymous with the event, stretched from Riccio Way past First Congregational Church.
Laura Beyer, of Southington, said that she comes to the Apple Harvest Festival every year and that the fritter line is always her first stop.
“It’s just the smell of ‘em,” she said. “It’s an autumn tradition.”
Charlene Mirron said that her aunt was one of the first to man the fritter booth in town, along with creators Dorothea “Dot” Czarnota and her husband, Lawrence.
“I can make fritters at home but I’m just too darn lazy and I’d rather get them at the church,” she said.
The Apple Harvest Festival will continue Saturday and Sunday and will also return the weekend of Oct. 6, 7 and 8. For a schedule of events, visit southingtonahf.org.
Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or firstname.lastname@example.org.