- FUN FEATURES
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Over the years, the Cheshire Fall Festival and Marketplace has grown from a small parking lot tag sale to a large event that occupies much of Bartlem park.
Last weekend, at the annual Fall Festival, once again, there was a record number of vendors, crafters and attendees, according to Chamber of Commerce President Sheldon Dill. In each of the last few years, the number of businesses and groups participating has grown, and the number of people that attend the event has increased as well. While no official count is ever kept, as people come and go throughout the day, Dill estimated that there were “thousands of people” in Bartlem park on Sept. 10.
"It's hard to determine the turnout and we don't have any hard count, but based on what we heard and what we were told, it was the largest turnout we ever had," Dill explained. "There was a steady crowd throughout the whole day. I think it was extremely successful."
What was once a small gathering and trade show in the parking lot of Town Hall has grown into a community event that has something for everyone, Dill explained. Starting the day off, before the vendor tables even opened, was a craft show, which saw a record number of crafters peddling their wares. There was also a classic car show in Bartlem, which Dill said had the most participants ever. Then, when Fall Festival officially began, the number of groups and businesses that purchased tables was at an all-time high.
"We had many, many groups spanning many, many different areas. It's a real community event," Dill stated. "The Chamber sponsors the event, but it's really about the community. It's really nice."
There were businesses in attendance, like real estate brokers and politicians, meeting and greeting the public. But there were also those doing philanthropic and charitable work in attendance, such as a fundraiser for Joshua Budd, supporting soldiers over seas, and raising funds for the Cheshire Dog Park.
"A lot of vendors were there for a worthwhile cause," Dill said. "It was so crowded that day that it felt like we couldn't get anyone else in the park."
The Chamber has not raised vendor prices in the last few years, a reflection of the economic climate in which the country finds itself. However, he said businesses and non-profits still attend the Fall Festival because of how important the event has become.
"It's an inexpensive way to promote, and it's free for the public to attend," Dill explained. "I heard on Saturday that people were thrilled to be there. I'm very proud to be a part of Fall Festival."
During the day, music from live bands filled the air. There was a Kids Zone sponsored by the YMCA, and a curious creatures exhibit put on by the Cheshire Land Trust. There was also a hot dog eating contest, sponsored by Blackie's, and a dunk tank supporting the Special Olympics. However, what a lot of people look forward to occurs when the sun finally sets - the fireworks. Thousands sat in the park and enjoyed the colorful display, but Dill knows that thousands more stayed home and watched the fireworks.
While Fall Festival was less than a week ago, Dill said the Chamber has already started planning for the 2012 event. Next year's Fall Festival is going to be something even more special, he explained, because it will be combined with the 100-year celebration of the Cheshire Volunteer Fire Department.
"As big as this year's event was, and it was our biggest, there is no doubt in my mind that next year's will be even bigger," Dill said.
Photo by James Brandolini