The planning for this year’s Potato and Corn Festival has been underway since last October with lots of developments at recent meetings, adding more excitement to this year’s festival, which marks the 10th year.
When Director Pam Gery took the job in North Branford, she noticed there weren’t any annual town events for community members to look forward to.
“I was the Park and Rec director in Westbrook before I came to North Branford and they had a Potato Festival so when I got here, I said, ‘I have experience with a potato festival so let’s try that’,” said Gery.
Gery’s idea took off, though Frank Mentone, publisher of the Totoket Times, had a suggestion for Gery.
“Frank came in and said, ‘Why potatoes? We don’t have potatoes here, we have corn.’ So we added that, too,” said Gery.
The festival didn’t start as the fun-filled weekend we know now. For the first few years, the festival was held on the baseball field at , running only three hours the first year, five the second and eight hours the third year.
“We started to wonder why we were doing all of that work for just one day,” said Gery. “Then we acquired the land at Augur Farm. It took its baby steps, but now the town has something to look forward to every year.”
Giving community members a special in-town event is important to Gery for many reasons and she keeps a reminder of that pinned to the wall in her office. Years ago, she read an article written by a high school girl about how there was nothing to do in town. The article came complete with a picture of a cow.
“She’s obviously not in high school anymore, but hopefully she can see there are now things going on in town,” said Gery.
And this year’s festival will have more going on than ever. There are more than 200 volunteers working on several different committees, including marketing, crafters, food and volunteers.
With more than 20,000 people enjoying the festival in each of the last two years, Gery and her committee have finally built a big enough bankroll to amp up the entertainment.
In addition to the local bands and talent that will entertain throughout the weekend, Big Shot, the Ultimate Billy Joel Experience, has been booked to play on Sunday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. Beau Badrick, an up-and-coming musician from Old Saybrook High School, will open for Big Shot at 3 p.m.
“We wanted to give people a good reason to come back on Sunday afternoon,” said Gery.
People will be running to the festival—or at the festival—on Sunday morning as the one-mile Tator Trot Fun Run kicks off at 9 a.m. and the third annual 5K Cross-Country Spud Run and Fitness Walk begin at 9:30 a.m. The run is followed by the ’s pancake breakfast.
Speaking of food, 90 percent of last year’s food vendors are returning with several new vendors participating as well. There are at least 25 crafters booked for the craft tents with more spaces available and the business expo will run next to the craft area.
Other attractions and events include a car show on Friday night, fireworks on Saturday night, local entertainment on the stage throughout the weekend, carnival rides and games, dog Frisbee, a tethered hot air balloon sponsored by RE/MAX (weather-dependent), a tractor pull on Saturday morning and a Cow Chip Raffle ($10 tickets go on sale starting May 7).
The committee is still seeking sponsorships for the event with several levels of sponsorship opportunities available.
The North Branford Potato and Corn Festival will be held on from 4 to 11 p.m.; from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. and from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Free off-site parking with shuttle service is available from n Northford or in North Branford. On-site parking at is available for $5. Admission to the festival is free.
“I love that we can offer this at no admission because, as a mom, I know how expensive these events can be,” said Gery. “Some people think we’re making so much money and wonder how much in taxes they are paying for the police department and public works working, but nothing comes out of town taxes at all. It’s all self-paid. There are very few areas outside of parking, eating at our booth, riding rides and running the 5K that benefit the actual festival. Hopefully over the years, the profits will be left over so we’ll have a bigger pot of money to have bigger entertainment. We need some good years and that’s why sponsorship is so important.”
For more information, call Park and Rec at 203-315-6017 or click here.