SOUTHINGTON — Planning for next year’s Apple Harvest Festival will begin next month despite uncertainty about the event.
This year’s festival was canceled since pandemic restrictions prevented the crowds that visit Southington’s downtown for the event. Planners are hopeful that by next fall, major gatherings will be allowed.
On Monday, the Town Council approved contracts with Melissa Cocuzza to be festival sponsorship coordinator and with Dave Lapreay, Parks and Recreation director, to be festival lead coordinator. They’d both been in those positions at the start of this year and had forgone their contractual payments from the town when the festival was canceled.
The pandemic reduced interest in festival sponsorships last year. Cocuzza wasn’t sure if there’d be a change of strategy this year in trying to draw interest but that planning was beginning when it normally does.
“We’re not tracking much differently time wise,” she said. “At our next meeting we’re going to talk about the coming year.”
Chris Palmieri, a council and Apple Harvest Festival committee member, said the group had contracted with a national musical act for 2020. When the festival was canceled, the town was able to shift the contract to 2021 without a loss of its $10,000 deposit.
In previous years the festival has featured bands such as Bowling for Soup and Spin Doctors. The festival committee is waiting until next year to announce the band.
Palmieri said he’s “cautiously optimistic” about the 2021 festival.
“We’re certainly hopeful that things will get back to normal,” he said. “Right now, there’s still so many unknowns.”
Decision to cancel
In June, the Town Council voted unanimously to cancel the Apple Harvest Festival set for September. Councilors cited public health concerns over holding an event that draws tens of thousands of people. At the time of the vote, they were also unsure if Gov. Ned Lamont would lift his pandemic restrictions to allow such large gatherings in time for the festival. Going ahead with the festival and then having it prohibited could cost the town and vendors money, time and wasted material.
Those concerns were vindicated when Lamont didn’t lift the restrictions on crowds.
Southington joined towns around the state and country in cancelling festivals and fairs.
Palmieri said the 2021 event would be considered with input from Shane Lockwood, the town’s public health director.
“We’ll have to see what the state of affairs is in the fall of 2021,” he said.