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Apple Harvest 2010

October 1, 2010 Leave a comment

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Yes, Friendship Lodge is back for another two weekends at the Southington Apple Harvest Festival. Once again we are featuring our fried apple wedges, and despite the damp weather, the crowds are lining up for a taste.

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2009 Apple Harvest Aftermath

October 16, 2009 Leave a comment

The tent has been folded up, the flooring has been packed away until next year, the fryers have been power-washed, and the apple prep gear has been boxed and stowed away. And most of us that worked the 2009 Southington Apple Harvest Festival are exhausted. In my opinion, we spent a hell of a lot of man hours (and some woman hours) just to make $1,200.

From Apple Harvest 2009

I’m not complaining — too much. Overall, the prep work was less tiring, and the clean-up much easier than when we had been cooking up those steak sandwiches. And we discovered that fresh, local cider — hot or cold –sells pretty well. And we also discovered that the warm, friend apples were an excellent mix with some ice cream, something that we’ll keep on the menu for next year. And as I’ve written before, I think that the two weekend stint is like a built-in team-building session, except that it is not run by high-priced consultants.

But still, the lodge building is old, and we need to raise more capital in order to stay ahead of the repairs, and to be able to lay something by in case of emergencies. I wonder what we could add to the mix for next year?



Apple Harvest Festival – 2009

October 6, 2009 Leave a comment

Officers of Friendship Lodge are joined by a few members of Frederick-Franklin on a nice October afternoon.

I can’t believe that this is my fourth time blogging about Friendship Lodge at the Southington Apple Harvest Festival. My first time was in 2006 when I was Master of the lodge, and really, not all that much has changed. Local businesses and street vendors still cross their fingers about the weather (apparently, those weather-changing HAARP beams aren’t supposed to be used frivolously), and the same members of Friendship still show up for the entire weekend to keep the food going. This year, however, we decided not to sell the “Philly” steak & cheese sandwiches that Friendship has sold for the last 15 years or so., and to concentrate just on selling the fried apple wedges that we’ve been perfecting for the last eight or nine years.

This was not an easy decision to make. Although it became clear that the sandwiches actually lost money during the last few years, the sheer amount of work involved to make them created a camaraderie that certainly added to the harmony of the members. How can you be upset with somebody who stood next to you, slicing the onions that you were peeling?  And few things help develop common trust like knowing that somebody will show up for the important, but oft-overlooked cleanup work.

Our initial weekend was marred by cloudy, drizzly weather that became a downpour by Saturday afternoon. But Sunday was warm and sunny, and the crowds were out in droves to taste the typical fair fare, to browse some of the craft booths, and to enjoy the weather.

Because nothing makes you look more cool than a black wool suit on a warm, sunny day.

This being the lodge’s largest (and essentially only) fund raiser, we count on good weather and healthy appetites for the two weekends that the festival takes place. The first weekend ended up doing fairly well, allowing us to cover our initial expenses. We’re hoping that next weekend will be even more successful.

Maybe we’ll see you there?

Harvest Aftermath

October 10, 2008 Leave a comment

The end of Apple Harvest is the final reminder that summer is over and we’re now beginning our long slide through autumn into winter.

Our own Apple Harvest was a mixed success; the changing New England weather left the crowds a bit more sparse than we would have liked to have seen them, but the people who did show up brought their appetites, and Friendship Lodge was benefited by that. In an interesting twist on our fund raising efforts, though, we discovered that those little fried apples that we’ve been selling for the last few years actually make more money for us than our famous Philly steak sandwiches. We never actually took a serious look at our sales until this year, when we were faced with an interesting dilemma.

Our building faces the town green, and is on a small, one-way street parallel to the main thoroughfare. Along the short block is a small office building, a bank, the American Legion, and a newly remodeled office building. The American Legion is right next door to us – we share a driveway in front and a small parking lot in the rear of the buildings.

For almost ten years, our lodge has sold steak sandwiches during the Apple Harvest Festival; it’s really our only big fundraiser, and we use the money to help maintain the old building that we’ve owned since the 1930s. In order to be a participant in the Festival, we pay a fee. We also pay a separate fee to get a tent, electricity (which we don’t use, since the tent is on our front lawn), gas hookups, and a temporary food permit. We also get some mention in one of the local sponsor flyers.

For the last three years the Festival was not run by the local Chamber of Commerce – it was turned over to private managers. Our lodge, being right on the green and in the middle of the Festival, has always kicked in a “goodwill payment” to help with the general costs. For this, we were supposed to get some extra mention in the various sponsorship ads – but each time it failed to materialize. It did entitle us to sell soda, which was a town-run franchise, but this year we noticed that several other non-sponsor vendors were selling soda, too.

Okay, stuff happens. But that’s not the worst of it.

Our neighbors, the American Legion, decided that they wanted to take advantage of the crowds and sell food outside. In a booth. Just like ours. And while they could have sold pretty much anything, especially items that weren’t already being sold (sausage & pepper sandwiches, burgers and dogs, Irish stew, turkey legs, etc.), they chose to sell. . . steak sandwiches.

The Festival managers limit the items that can be sold, so that vendors are not selling the same things. However, the American Legion does not pay the entry fee, so they do not have to abide by the same rules as the other food vendors. Being right on the green, they are in the middle of the Festival, and being 20 feet closer to the band stage, they probably intercepted some of the traffic that we would have otherwise had.

They also priced their sandwiches a dollar lower than ours (we lowered our own prices to match). They also opted to sell drinks, and since they did not need to pay anything to the town supplier, were able to price their soda lower than the rest of us. Complaints to the Festival managers went nowhere, as they had no authority to do anything.

I know that the libertarian-minded people will say that this is just a matter of supply and demand, of simple economics – but that is not the way that the rest of us viewed the situation. All of the other vendors agreed to abide by certain rules, with the understanding that such rules turn a potential free-for-all into an organized community event.

Every year we always have one or two members who ask why we continue to pay a fee to the town. “The Legion never pays anything, and they get the benefits. Why don’t we do the same thing? We could put up our own tent and sell what we want, and keep all the money.” And every year, a few of us sigh and explain that while it’s frustrating for us, the majority of the members of our lodge believe that it’s the right thing to do. We believe that we are part of the community, and we want to contribute in any way that we can.

It’s easy to voice those sentiments when things are going well, of course, but it’s another thing to hold to your principles when faced with opposition. We spent the two weekends kicking around the idea of not paying the entry fee next year, but really, it was more about blowing off some steam.

But ultimately, this all led to some good things. At the meeting after the end of the Festival, we discussed a number of alternatives to sell; this included taking a closer look at how well the fried apples were selling, and what we could add or subtract to the mix. Some of the officers are already coming up with ideas for the next year, and I fully expect that our fund raising efforts for next year will be completely different.


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Don’t rain on our parade

October 1, 2008 Leave a comment

The rain held off, and the sun came out. While we were thankful for the good weather, I have to admit that we were muttering about the hot, humidness as we marched in our black wool suits.

However, ti was another successful parade – we didn’t lose any of our guys.

The festival will open again later in the week, on Thursday evening. Right now, it’s less than an hour to closing time. We’re cleaning up a bit, and hoping to get our of here at a reasonable hour.

Live at the Apple Harvest Festival!

October 1, 2008 Leave a comment

Where’s the beef?

We are seeing little patches of sunlight. Hoping for a successful day!

2008 Apple Harvest Festival – Saturday

September 27, 2008 Leave a comment
Apple Harvest 2008
Dateline: 9/27/08 – Downtown Southington, CT
The 40th Annual Apple Harvest Festival was supposed to kick off yesterday, Friday evening, but the rain from the slow-moving Kyle system forced the officials to postpone the opening.The plus side is that we were already prepped a day early, so getting ready this morning was not the usual controlled chaos.
The weather is still lousy, and it’s been raining off and on, but the rain isn’t especially bad, and people are trickling down. We’ve already sold some of our delicious friend apple wedgies and a few Philly steak sandwiches, and right now most of the crew is hanging out inside the lodge. After fighting a bit to connect to our new wireless network, half the people are glued to the local Doppler maps with fingers crossed.
A couple of the guys set up a small portable tent in front of our sandwich booth, so that customers can wait out of the rain. Great idea! Now we just need to entice a few more in.
If the weather isn’t too bad, then the parade will take place tomorrow, early afternoon. The rain date will be next Sunday.


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