Sunday, August 2, 2009

Harvest Festival preparations

The Downtown Partnership is preparing for the fall Harvest Festival, with organizers looking for sponsors to keep the momentum going as the event has become increasingly popular in recent years.

"This is much, much bigger than the Strawberry Festival - double the size, at least." said Lisa Piana, partnership executive director. "It's an event that people now put on their calendar, and vendors start calling in March and April," to reserve booths, as the partnership tries to avoid having competing vendors, said Piana.

The Harvest Festival, which began seven years ago, was pretty small even four years ago, Piana said. The celebration has grown to be the largest fall event in the area. The festival now features multiple bands, more than 100 vendors, crafters, and nonprofit groups, and usually draws a few thousand people.

The group is seeking sponsors to fund the event, which becomes costlier as it grows, particularly with the extra bands and police details, Piana said.

Benjamin Franklin Charitable Trust, which still exists, despite Rockland Trust buying the bank, is the festival's main sponsor, and Middlesex Savings Bank is another sponsor, Piana said.

"It's because of them coming forward early that we're moving ahead with this event. It's due to the generosity of these two sponsors that we know we'll have an event this year," Piana said.

For the first time, the partnership is inviting local restaurants to sell food at the festival in front of Dean Bank, Berry Insurance and possibly on Summer Street, Festival Chairwoman Mary Graff said.

Also this year, the Franklin Art Association will have "a big presence" with art displays, likely on the grass next to Hang Tai Chinese Cuisine, and organizers hope to set up a dunk tank and bring four bands to perform at the festival.

Festival-goers will also be able to pick up fresh produce at the Farmers Market.

Graff said people should plan on a fun family day.

"There's something for everyone, hopefully. It gives a little art and culture and entertainment on a Sunday afternoon," said Graff.

Said Piana: "It's amazing. It's a lot of hard work, but at the end of the day, it's so rewarding to see so many people come out."

Vendors wishing to have a booth at the Harvest Festival should contact Graff by Aug. 20 to reserve a spot ($50). The fee increases to $75 after that.

Booths are free for partnership members.

The Harvest Festival will be held Sunday, Sept. 20, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and the rain date is Sunday, Sept. 27.

For more information or to reserve a booth, contact Graff at 508-733-5504 or

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