Bristol is revamping its harvest festival

BRISTOL — At the base of the Green Mountains, late summer storms have blown the leaves off some trees and turned others prematurely red, bringing autumn and the annual harvest to mind — and the harvest season had already been on the minds of the Bristol Recreation Department’s staff for some time.
Darla Senecal, along with Valerie Hanson and Marguerite Senecal of the Addison County Chamber of Commerce, have been hard at work planning exciting new additions for the annual Harvest Festival, which will be held this year on Saturday, Sept. 28. The already-popular festival, now in its 15th year, is held in conjunction with the Saturday morning farmer’s market and always features demonstrations, pony rides, face painting and more.
“The Harvest Festival has always been this wonderful community festival, but we wanted to make it more interactive,” Senecal said. “We wanted to give people a really hands-on way of participating in the festival, instead of just passing through and watching.”
This year, the Rec Department is upping the ante. They solicited community feedback and focused in particular on fun and engaging activities for kids and adults. They have added contests and hands-on activities in partnership with community organizations and local artisans.
Apple bobbing and seed art projects will be held in collaboration with the Addison Northeast Supervisory Union Food Co-op; local blacksmith Lee Beckworth will host live demonstrations; and the Bristol Downtown Community Partnership has arranged a scavenger hunt of downtown businesses — those who find all of the items will be eligible to win a goodie basket with items from the participating stores.
The festival will also host a 5k run in the morning to benefit the Starksboro pre-school, which serves many Bristol families. Adults and teens can sign up to run the full 5k, while a slightly more modest racetrack will be arranged for the pre-schoolers.
Senecal and the planners have also dreamed up a variety of contests for children and adults. Previously, Senecal said, the big contest draw was the Best Apple Pie Ever contest. This year, festivalgoers will have far more to choose from.
Pie-eating contests will be held with divisions for kids and grown-ups. Gardeners are encouraged to enter the “Biggest Zucchini” contests. There will also be a fun chicken wings tasting and contest, where each person votes on their favorite wings recipes. The Bristol Fire Department is organizing a tug-of-war event.
All of the events will be “absolutely free and open to the public,” Senecal said. Anyone interested in entering the contests may do so at the Bristol Recreation Department Harvest Festival tent on the morning of the fair.
As always, there will be a full line-up of live music all day. The festival will open with local musician Mark Lavoie, who will be followed by Elsie Jazz, the town’s Harvest Festival Band, Simply Acoustic, and finally Bible Camp Sleepover.
Senecal added that members of the public who are looking to get even more hands-on than pie eating are always welcome to volunteer. The Rec Department can always use volunteers to help set up the festival, and may need more hands on duck than usual this year due to the new event additions.
Senecal said the Rec Department was looking forward to bringing even more fun and games to an annual community event that is always a big hit.
“It’s always a day to really have fun here in downtown Bristol,” she said.

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