‘Getting us prepared for the fall’: New Milford holds first Apple Festival

NEW MILFORD — What started with an idea earlier this year culminated in the town’s first Apple Festival, which drew several hundred people Saturday to the New Milford Green.

The festival, which ran from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., had 55 booths representing crafters, businesses and nonprofits.

For sale were apples, apple cider, and donuts. There was also apple-oriented games such as bobbing for apples and a bake-off for the best apple dessert.

The idea for the festival came from Pat Hembrook, executive secretary for New Milford Mayor Pete Bass.

When Village Fair Days, which takes place in July, was canceled due to COVID-19, Hembrook said Bass came to her and said there should be an event downtown.

Hembrook said she already had an idea.

“I told him I always wanted to do an apple festival,” she said. “He looked at me and he said ‘perfect.’”

Hembrook said an apple festival is “unique” and gets people ready for the season.

“It’s a good family-oriented activity, getting us prepared for the fall,” she said. Hembrook has run events in town for 35 years for the women’s club and historical society, as well as art shows and Village Fair Days. Previously, she ran events for CityCenter Danbury.

She added the Town Green is the “perfect” place for such an event, which was supported by the town.

“People gravitate to this Green, they love to have events on this Green,” she said.

New Milford resident Diane McCaffrey, the festival’s bake-off coordinator, said there were 14 registered entries. Categories include: Best Pie, Best Dessert and Most Original.

Three judges for the competition give scores. The top scores in each category won a trophy and gift certificate. The contest requirements had to be a dessert with the main ingredient of apples.

The Apple Festival’s King and Queen — John Bacon, 82, and Dorothy Robinson, 94, were also made an appearance at the festival. Both are members of the New Milford Senior Center.

Janette Ireland, program coordinator at the senior center, said each year, there is a king and queen for Village Fair Days but since that was canceled, the senior center’s advisory board instead crowned the Apple Festival King and Queen. Bacon and Robinson helped cut the ribbon to start off the festival, and then greeted people as they passed by.

Liz Mott of New Milford, who was visiting booths with her three children — Blake, 6 months, Logan, 8, and Hannah, 11, said she liked the event.

“The Gazebo is giving us Gilmore Girl vibes,” she added. She also said she was impressed there was a Schaghticoke Middle School PTO booth.

Shari Gold of New Milford, who is coordinator of “Strut Your Mutt,” a dog costume contest at New Milford’s RiverFest Oct. 2 and 3 on the Town Green, was walking around with her friend Rona Machlin, who was visiting from New Jersey. Machlin held Cassie, a 12-year-old Cairn Terrier mix, whom she plans to dress as Wonder Woman in the contest.

New Milford resident Molly Coffey, 14, was walking around with a large group of friends.

“We went to every booth already,” Molly said. “We got some really good apple cider.”

She added she’s thinking about volunteering at the New Milford Senior Center.

At the booth representing the Women’s Club of Greater New Milford, member Carol Immohr said the club, which was founded in 1962, takes part in a lot of fundraising events throughout the year.

“All the money we raise is given away to different organizations,” she said, adding several people at the festival have already expressed interest in joining the club.

The club’s next meeting is Oct. 13 at the Maxx on Railroad Street. “All are welcome to attend,” she said.

David Lewis, Scout Master of Boy Scout Troop 58 in New Milford, also manned a booth, with several Boy Scouts volunteering.

He said he’s encouraging young people to join Scouts and get involved in outdoor activities in general.

“Scouting, sports — kids should be outdoors,” Lewis said.

Hembrook said she’s already looking for ideas for next year’s festival.

“I accept anybody’s suggestions for apple-themed activities for next year,” she said. Hembrook can be reached at phembrook@newmilford.org.