CHESHIRE — Betty Corey’s family figured on spending Friday night at Bartlem Park. Two-year-old Sloane and 4-year-old Natalie Corey were hitting the carnival rides and trying cotton candy while their parents caught up with friends, she said.
Roberta Overend’s family had the same plan, except that her 6-year-old grandson Anthony Warden balked, at least initially, at the Dizzy Dragons ride.
“He wants to see how fast they go before he gets on,” said Anthony’s mom, 38-year-old Stacy Warden, as Anthony stood by, staring with wide eyes at the dragons that spun on by.
More than 500 people took in the live music, sampled food truck offerings, went on carnival rides or just caught up with friends at the launch of the two-day Cheshire Fall Festival at Bartlem Park on Friday night. Sponsored by the town and the Cheshire Chamber of Commerce, it’s Cheshire’s largest outdoor community event and a welcome opportunity for town businesses battered by the COVID-19 pandemic to get some attention, said Chamber President Yetta Augur.
“I think everybody is ready to get out of the house and enjoy the beautiful fall weather,” Augur said Friday, “and I am really happy that we are going to have a great weekend with the weather. It’s the only big outdoor event that we have in Cheshire.”
The festival concludes today with a fireworks show at dusk after a 10 a.m. start with several events including a car show, the resumption of the carnival and more live music. One measure of how welcome the festival is following its 2020 cancellation is how it sold out its rental spaces for the first time in years. The festival has 85 vendors and 27 crafters due to display wares today, Augur said. Ten food trucks will also be on hand.
Workers began setting up tents at Bartlem, which is off Route 10 opposite Cheshire High School, on Thursday.
Resident Jessica Kingsbury said she felt the presence of the pandemic in the event.
“There is still a tension I feel about what is safe or is comfortable for everybody,” Kingsbury said. “It’s not as free [spirited] as it was two years ago. I hope the fun hasn’t changed, though.”
A full schedule of events is available online at cheshirefestival.com.