SOUTHINGTON — Twenty minutes before 2 on Sunday afternoon, hundreds of people set up chairs, sat on curbs, and stood along Center and Main streets waiting for the 45th annual Apple Harvest Festival parade to begin.
Despite the constant drizzle, the gathered crowds were excited.
Shortly after the parade started on Summer Street, it snaked throughout the downtown area. Police and firefighters were at the forefront of the parade, equipped with ladder trucks, antique fire trucks, and more. People clapped and cheered as they made their way down Main Street.
Four-year-old Hannah Albrycht, dressed in a blue sweatshirt with the hood over her head, sat on top of her dad Matt Albrycht’s shoulders to get a better view of the parade as it came through Main Street. Hannah waved to the dozens of people who passed by with a huge smile on her face. The rain didn’t bother her.
“We’ve been coming for years and years,” said Matt Albrycht, of Southington.
“Since I was young,” added Pam Albrycht, Hannah’s mother.
Holding a star wand decorated with orange, yellow, and red leaves, Mary DeCroce, the parade’s grand marshal, waved from a red Mustang convertible. As she made her way down Center Street and onto Main Street she smiled at people and said “hello” to those she recognized in the crowd.
The Southington High School cheerleaders got the crowd going by shouting out chants and cheers.
“Yell it out! Go white, go white. Go Blue, go blue,” the squad screamed.
Following the cheerleaders was the Blue Knights Marching Band, then the parade’s Granny Apple, Rosemary Cianci, and her granddaughter, Eryn Pellrine, in a black Jeep Wrangler.
Students of Valentin Karate in Plantsville kicked and punched through planks of wood held by their instructor. The crowd cheered when one kicked through three boards on one try. After they went by, the song “Applause” by Lady Gaga echoed through the Town Green as girls from Dance City & the Arts performed in black dance jackets and pants. Twirling, kicking, and picking one another up, they danced down Main Street to the rest of the song.
Local elementary schools had their own floats, with students, parents and staff chanting their school’s names to get the crowds going.
“Look at those, Jose! Look at that bike coming through,” said Amilio Alier, of Southington, trying to get the attention of his 10-year-old grandson, Jose Falero. “They are pretty cool.”
Alier was pointing at the bike parade hosted by Southington Community Cultural Arts that was about an hour into the parade. Nineteen bikes were recycled and turned into artwork. One had a dragon on the side with the two wheels painted blue and white to represent water.
For the 13 years he has lived in Southington, Alier has come to the festival regularly. He recalls missing the parade only about two times. Each year he brings his grandsons, Jose and Uzion Falero, of Manchester, to see the parade.
Costumed characters — Batman, Spider-Man, Elmo and others — ran out to say hi to the children sitting alongside the road.
Two hours after the parade began, the last group passed by, dressed in Halloween costumes, skipping, running and jumping.
People poured into the streets after the last police car turned right onto Main Street, signaling the end of the adventure.
Jennifer Joyce, of Southington, was with her 3-year-old daughter, Mackenzie, just in front of the First Congregational Church parking lot, a spot she says she sits in each year because it looks “as if the parade is coming at us.”
“This is one of the better parades,” Joyce said. “It’s larger and it’s a nice mix of surrounding towns.”