The Bristol Harvest Festival: A Day of Sales, Crafts, Music and Pie

By NICOLE POLLACK

Festival-goers enjoy the fall harvest scenery.

BRISTOL — Vendors, crafters, ponies and musicians braved a cold and drizzly morning in Bristol on Saturday, Sept. 22, gathering early on the Town Green to set up for the 20th annual Harvest Festival. 

“I had this big picnic blanket wrapped around me,” said Sarah Bevere, age nine, who helped the Middlebury College softball team set up tents and tables for the festival.

By 10 a.m., it was warmer and no longer raining, as visitors, including plenty of dogs, began arriving at the green. The air soon filled with live music, the scent of kettle corn and fried food, announcements for the upcoming pie-eating contest and the delighted shrieks emanating from children in the bouncy house. Ponies strapped into a metal structure resembling a merry-go-round carried their young riders in slow circles. The cornhole boards were shaped like pigs. Arielle Landau ’21 described the maple kettle corn as “wonderful and Vermonty in the perfect way.” The crisp fall weather signaled the beginning of leaf peeping season across the state, as vendors and shoppers alike flooded to the Town Green to celebrate the season’s harvest.

The festival offered “a full day of live music on the bandstand, activities for kids, pony rides, live demonstrations, crafters, vendors and area non-profit organizations,” according to the Addison County Chamber of Commerce’s website. The event was organized by the Chamber of Commerce and the Bristol Recreation Department and sponsored by various local businesses. The loosely organized rows of tents at Saturday’s festival offered everything from jewelry, wooden spoons and handmade alpaca-wool blankets, to green energy solutions, nutritional supplements and insurance. 

Alexandra Burns ’21 said most of the festival’s attractions were “best enjoyed if you were interested in spending your money,” adding, however, that it wasn’t necessary to spend money to have fun. Festival-goers could listen to music floating from the gazebo, munch on samples and take part in various arts and crafts as the day progressed.

Marie Miller, a Bristol resident wearing an “Independents for Senate” pin, talked about a Starksboro family, Jennifer and Patrick and their five children, who had brought maple creams and sugars along with three varieties of syrup — delicate, robust and strong — to the festival for the second year. She described how they involve every family member in some part of the maple process, whether it’s tapping the trees, hauling the sap or boiling and bottling the syrup. 

Will’s Lemonade serves up freshly squeezed juice.

“This is a farming community,” Miller said. “It may not be cows, it may not be milk, but it comes from our trees and it takes a lot of hard work to make it, and it’s instilling good values and a good work ethic into your children.”

Vendors ranged from Distinctive Vintage, selling home decor and fall-related decorations, to Will’s Lemonade and Soul Shine healing. One stand brought fresh produce to the Harvest Festival this year. Lester Farm, located on Route 7 about ten minutes from the college, had a tent crowded with a variety of squash and orange, white and multicolored pumpkins. Addie Thompson from Lester Farm said that last year, their first time at the festival, had been a moderate success, but customers expressed little interest in standard summer produce. “We brought our fall harvest this year and tailored toward the Harvest Festival,” Thompson said.

Though the event drew many college students and Addison County residents, not all vendors felt the day was a success. One craftsman, who did not wish to be named, said this was his first year, his sales had been dismal and he would not be returning. He also said most visitors came to see friends, rather than to shop.

Another Harvest Festival highlight was the pie-eating contest at 2 p.m. The seven participants lined up on both sides of a folding table, clasped their hands behind their backs, and dove face-first into blueberry pies. Two minutes later, purple pie covered their faces and the table, and the three-year reigning champion, Chase, conceded to this year’s victor, Tyler, with a fist bump.

“The pie-eating contest encapsulated the experience of small-town life,” said Jasmine Chau ’21, a Los Angeles native attending her first rural festival, adding that “it also was a decent pie.”

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