CHESHIRE — The threat of inclement weather didn’t dampen the festivities at the annual Cheshire Fall Festival, held Saturday at Bartlem Park.
The event, run by the Cheshire Chamber of Commerce, is an opportunity for town residents to eat good food, listen to music, go on rides, and check out the offerings of local vendors.
Yetta Augur, president of the chamber, said that the 31-year-old event is the largest in town and a communal effort between the chamber and town government. “Other than the little shower, things are going great,” she said.
The skies threatened all morning and opened up after 1 p.m. Despite the rain, people put up their umbrellas, took refuge in tents, and most tellingly, kept streaming in from the parking lot across the street at Cheshire High School. The weather caused the cancellation of the evening’s fireworks, moved to Sunday at dusk.
“We expected the rain, but we’re not really prepped for it,” said Malachi Leduc, a waiter at Blackie’s, who kept slinging hot dogs to a line of hungry customers.
Rob Oris, the Town Council chairman and mayor, is running for re-election and spent a bit of the festival chatting with constituents. He likes the festival better on non-election years, where he can just wander around and have a good time, he said. “There’s not a lot of pressure. There’s always good food, good music,” he said.
Oris believes that Cheshire is a community-minded town, thus making events like a festival a natural magnet for residents. “It’s an opportunity to get out and mingle with your friends in the community,” Oris said.
For the town Parks and Recreation department, the festival is a chance to take the temperature of the community about potential upgrades at Chapman Park and other parks in town. Some of the ideas presented at the festival to parks and rec staff were concession stands, cameras, a concert stage, and frisbee golf, among others.
“We want to let everyone know that we are looking for their feedback,” said Tim Weed, program coordinator at Parks and Rec. “We want to know what people want. I’m excited to see what they want to do.”
That’s the serious stuff. The silly stuff was planned for later in the afternoon, with a hot dog eating contest. Cheshire resident Harold Orlinsky likes his chances this year. Last year, an out-of-town ringer ate a dozen Blackie’s hot dogs with mustard and relish in 10 minutes. Harold came in third, knocking down seven.
“My wife refuses to come because she says I make a fool of myself,” Orlinsky said with a laugh.
He’s got an advantage this year. Harold just got back from a business trip to Singapore (he runs a software company that helps map the ocean floor) and hasn’t eaten in two days. “I am good to go,” he said.
Orlinsky said that normal people get about six down before you get full. “They put on all this relish and stuff. It’s heavy and spicy,” he said.
It’s all in good fun.
When asked why the festival was an important piece of life in Cheshire, Orlinsky looked around. He gestured to his neighbor’s booth across the way, and people he does business with. He knows people everywhere he goes. Orlinsky’s sentiment is a common one at the festival.
“I can walk around and I know a lot of people,” Orlinsky said. “It’s such a nice community.”