BETHEL – Bethel Common jumped on Saturday for the annual Harvestfest celebration.
“We are thrilled to have a beautiful, clear and crisp day,” said Jessie Perkins, executive director of the Bethel Chamber of Commerce, which is organizing the event. “We have a full roster of vendors and great music, including the reunion of Donny and Jewel – two beloved local musicians who haven’t played together in a few years. It’s just a fun harvest day and such a lovely event.
The event used to be Bethel Harvestfest and Chowder Cookoff, but Perkins said restaurants have struggled to recruit restaurants on Saturdays and also be at the festival.
In addition to numerous booths from arts and crafts vendors and local nonprofits, sponsor Hancock Lumber had a pumpkin painting booth. Bennett Automotive put on a tractor exhibit and even displayed a Model T. Steve Stone gave chainsaw carving demonstrations at the library, and there were demonstrations of rug hooking and cider pressing at the historical society. Free horse-drawn wagon rides were sponsored by the Good Food Store.
Ainsley Rosenberg-Brown, Lindsy Stephenson and Donnie Katlin & Jewel Clark performed at the Gazebo all afternoon. Allen’s Coffee Brandy sponsored the entertainment.
Seth Ferris of MS Walker said, “Allen’s Coffee Brandy is our bread and butter here in Maine. The company has been a patron of the festival for several years.
“We wanted to go out and say hello to people again,” Ferris said. “It has been interesting. I noticed that most people here so far are not from Maine. If you’re not from Maine, you’ve never heard of Allen’s, but it’s been around for nearly 50 years and was Maine’s number one spirit for decades. We have to work to get a spiritual tent here, but the Bethel Inn is making a drink for us today.
The sponsors also helped judge the apple pie and apple chip contest, and the slices were then put up for sale. Jeffrey Girouard won first place in the professional category, Janet Black for a non-traditional pie and Sarah South for a traditional pie.
Peter Southam, who is married to the three-time apple pie champion, said he’s been to several Harvestfests ‘but they have a bad habit of getting rained or blown or COVID-ed’, he said , “so we really haven’t had a lot of good ones lately, but this is the best I’ve ever seen.” He added that he rarely eats the pie because his wife always gives it to the contest.”She makes great pie,” he added.
New resident Chuck Wilcoxen was a newcomer to the festival and found it very enjoyable. “We were looking forward to it and enjoyed walking around,” he said. “I had the hot dog contract, which was outstanding. It’s nice to see people having fun and to see the kids dancing to the music.
Mike and Sharon Madore from Rumford said they had been coming for a few years and it was always great. “We try to come every year,” Mike said. “Last year I surprised my wife. She always wanted to ride and had never done it, so it’s a good memory.
Faye Christoforo and Ben Allen moved to Bethel two years ago and said, “It’s our first time, but it was great. We love it.
Chrys and Ruthie Snogren from Bethel were happy to be here for at least their fourth Harvestfest, to catch up with friends. They were impressed with the number of booths this year.
Vendors Martha Grover and Josh Rysted set up their pottery stall for the fourth or fifth year. “Turnout was great today,” Grover said, “bigger than last year, definitely.” They noticed a good mix of locals and visitors and found it to be a good time of year for sales when people are just starting to think about gifts for the holidays.
Justin Webb from Ohio and Aaron Bilsing from Vermont stumbled upon the festival after hiking the Cross NH Adventure Trail (which ends in Davis Park).
“Bethel is a nice, really nice little town,” Webb said. “We’re from out of town, but we like it. It’s cool. That’s what the city should be doing, bringing people, gathering shares, and you have a great day for that.
Obviously, the weather made everything about the day more enjoyable.
“You can plan everything perfectly,” Perkins said, “but it’s all weather dependent, and luckily we’re getting there today.”