Just how much fun can one town handle? Southington put that question to the test over the weekend with two big opportunities to get out and celebrate.
Sponsored by Sons of Italy, Southington UNICO, and the women’s group Sorelle d’Italia, the annual Italian American Festival began Saturday and continued through Sunday evening on Center Street.
The event was canceled last year due to the pandemic. Organizers said they didn’t want another year to go by without a festival.
“It’s to keep the tradition alive,” said David Zoni, UNICO’s representative to the festival committee.
Saturday night there was music featuring Italian and American classics, on Sunday a Mass and a procession of the statue of the Madonna downtown were among the highlights. Of course, food tents run by local nonprofits were a popular part of the action, that’s a given.
Local resident Lucia Conti perfectly summed up the importance of the event and the happiness experienced in seeing it return. “I was so upset when the festival was canceled last year. This festival is so inclusive, it welcomes everyone and I feel like it truly unites our community,” she said.
Visitors from near and far praised the organizers and enthusiastically embraced the positive vibe the Italian American festival brought to town.
Donna Rancourt, who attended with her husband Dewayne, said going to Italian festivals makes her feel happy and “warm inside.”
She explained, “I am Italian and I grew up with Italian people. Every year we look for these events and the one in Southington is just great.”
Southington resident Aria Gallo echoed those sentiments. “It’s a great place, and a great celebration to attend to reconnect with your heritage. I also enjoy knowing that when I spend money here, they go to a good cause.”
At Lake Compounce something a little different, but also scoring high on the fun scale, unfolded.
Children were greeted by Santa, Mrs. Claus and Santa’s helpers on Saturday when the amusement park held its “Christmas in July” event. About 50 Santas and helpers showed up, dressed in summer attire, to take photos with visitors, go on rides and pass out small gifts.
“I was so surprised to see him,” said Addison Melo of spotting the famous visitor from the North Pole.
The park collaborated with the Connecticut Society of Santas to stage this holiday surprise to the delight of its visitors — especially kids.
The generous spirit of Christmas will ripple out from this event. The Connecticut Society of Santas is a nonprofit organization that includes the Santa Cares program, an endeavor that raises money for food banks, including those in Southington and Bristol.
Lake Compounce offered free parking to guests who donated non-perishable and canned goods for the food banks. The partnership between Compounce and the Santa Cares program will help local food banks. That outcome certainly should make the Nice List.
“What better way to celebrate our milestone birthday than getting in the holiday spirit a little earlier this year,” said the park’s general manager Larry Gorneault Jr.
The park marks its 175th anniversary this season.
The Connecticut Santas said they were thrilled to be back, too, and working with Compounce.
President of the Santa organization, Santa George, said, “The best part of this is seeing all the kids and parents smiling faces.”
These two great events for the community brought the solid comfort of tradition and the elusive carefree moments of summer together in perfect harmony.