SOUTHINGTON — Apple Harvest Festival leaders don’t support holding the event this year, although the Town Council will make a final decision on June 8.
Dave Lapreay, festival coordinator and recreation director, said bringing thousands of people from around the region to Southington this fall would be “a recipe for disaster.”
Plainville-Southington Regional Health Director Shane Lockwood said there’s also no guarantee that Gov. Ned Lamont will lift his restriction on outdoor gatherings of more than 25 people by September. That could mean canceling the festival at the last minute, after vendors have purchased supplies, and other money for the festival is spent.
The Apple Harvest Festival committee agreed during a meeting Wednesday that Lapreay should recommend canceling the event to the council.
“There’s too much risk to move forward with this, 2020 isn’t going to be the year for fairs and festivals,” said Tom Lombardi, a committee member and Town Council vice chairman.
Few vendors or sponsors
Festival planners said not only were there health risks posed by large crowds packed into Southington’s downtown, there was also scant interest from vendors or sponsors.
In early June last year, nearly all of the 76 vendor slots were filled. Lapreay said so far there have only been 25 applications, and some of those have asked for their money back.
Melissa Cocuzza, the festival’s sponsorship coordinator, said sponsors dried up when pandemic restrictions began and haven’t picked back up.
“There’s really nothing to sell,” she said.
Deposit on a band moved to next year
Festival leaders put down $10,000 on a deposit for a national act, but didn’t name the band during Wednesday’s meeting. The committee voted to roll the deposit to the 2021 festival.
Cocuzza volunteered to do the same thing with the remainder of her sponsorship coordinator contract if the council votes to cancel the festival. Lapreay and his assistant Julia Berardinelli also offered to waive the remainder of their contracted stipends for working on the festival, to which the committee agreed.
“This was unsolicited,” said Town Manager Mark Sciota. “I appreciate both of them for this.”
Lamont’s executive orders currently allow for people to gather in groups of no more than 25 outdoors.
“You’re hoping that the executive order by September would go from 25 people to no limit,” Lockwood said. “As we prepare for a second wave, I honestly don’t see that… You’re making a big planning assumption that it would be lifted.”
Lombardi said he’s heard from some people that the town should move forward with a “scaled-down” festival. It’s not feasible to limit people attending the free festival, he said.
“We’re either having the festival or we’re not,” Lombardi said.