Though not attributed to any particular author, one lesser-known saying about our current season is that autumn shows us how beautiful it is to let things go.
For the first time in three years, the public was invited to mix and mingle at Croft Farm on Oct. 17 for the Harvest Festival. Last year, like many events locally, regionally and nationally, the event was cancelled due to the pandemic. In 2019, early-morning rain on the day of the festival caused enough of a problem to wash out the rest of the day.
“The Harvest Festival has long been a cherished tradition here in Cherry Hill, but this year’s felt even more meaningful after all we have gone through over the past 19 months of this pandemic,” said Mayor Susan Shin Angulo.
“It was amazing to watch so many friends, families and neighbors come together to pick out pumpkins, fill up on cotton candy and enjoy a beautiful day as a community.”
Mother Nature messed with the thermostat, swinging from heat to cold in the space of 24 hours, but the cycles of warm sunshine and overcast chill during the four-hour fair didn’t seem to dampen the spirits of anyone who attended.
“Once everything came down (from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about safe outdoor events) and our administration decided we could move on, that’s when we started,” said Ericha Farrington, special events coordinator for the township.
“We were very excited to have it this year.”
Work began almost immediately to pin down clearances, manpower, volunteers, entertainment, and licenses for food trucks and a beer garden.
“Countless hours is a good way to put it,” Farrington added of the overall preparation time to stage the event.
Staff had to be early risers the day of the event. Farrington and her crew started working at around 6:45 a.m., beginning with the creation of a pumpkin patch that featured more than 1,000 pumpkins scattered around the iconic Free Wheel sculpture. They didn’t close out their day until after 5 p.m.; the festival itself was only open from noon until 4 p.m.
“They can go quickly and it is a lot of energy put into doing this one thing. It’s nice to see the families have fun with their kids but then poof — they’re gone,” Farrington noted about how quickly the patch is picked clean.
“It’s one of my favorite events and it’s a great time of year to be out and about after such a long time of not being able to.”
Some mothers with small children even worked a swap with their strollers. Without warning, their kids suddenly needed to use their own two feet to move while the pumpkin was strapped in tightly. The scene was repeated at least once when the pumpkins were loaded into cars.
Upon reflection, Farrington noted how the “well-oiled machine” of collaboration between various administrative departments used to staging the festival year after year showed no signs of slowing down, even with the three-year delay.
Logistics like fencing off a safe area to hold pony rides; planning where to fit the DJ stage; and positioning police, fire and EMT vehicles for safe tours and demonstrations required know-how that only comes from repeated success.
“I am so grateful for the support of our sponsors, and especially want to thank our recreation, public works, police and fire departments for their tireless work making it all possible,” Angulo said.