Celebrate Good Times
- David Ginisi
When you consider all that North Central Massachusetts has to offer – from apple orchards to wineries and craft breweries, it’s not surprising that local residents love to celebrate the region. From the first hint of an apple blossom in the spring to the waning days of the fall harvest, festivals of all sizes keep weekends lively here. If you can think of something to celebrate, you can bet there’s a festival built around it.
In the spring, for example, Shokan Farms holds its annual Apple Blossom Festival. The Pleasant Street hilltop comes alive with bagpipe music, craft vendors, pony rides and food trucks – even a butterfly release that is guaranteed to thrill every child. This year’s festival – the orchard’s eighteenth celebration – will take place on May 18, so mark your calendar now!
Are you a food truck fan? In June, food fanatics will be heading to Gardner for the city’s Food Truck Festival, offering all those comfort foods – from chili to kettle corn and ice cream – that will keep you coming back for more. The food truck gala takes place right in front of City Hall on June 8. Bring your appetite!
Speaking of food… did you know that the region celebrates that all-time-family favorite – mac n’ cheese? Yes, the humble dinner staple has its day in the sun on Saturday, July 13, right on Templeton Common. The lawn will be jumping with activity, and volunteers will be dishing up lots of yummy eats (don’t miss the mac n’ cheese pizza!) while the kids enjoy free games and a chance to talk to the Superheroes walking through the crowd.
Did you know that the region has a distinct Scandinavian heritage? Fitchburg and surrounding towns become home to many Finns – to the extent that the area has had its own Finnish-language newspaper, Raivaaja (The Pioneer), since 1905. And for more than a century, the community has gathered for a Summer Festival, Kesäjuhla, at Saima Park. Kesäjuhla is a celebration of the summer solstice that arrives at the end of a long dark winter. The local event – planned for June 23 this year – includes outdoor games for all ages, including “molkky”, a lawn bowling game, and “sanko hiipiminen”, or “bucket creeping”, a water-carrying obstacle course. Many early local Finnish settlers raised chickens, so a chicken barbecue has become part of the event. Side dishes include Finnish salads… and of course, there’s plenty of coffee, sundaes with lingonberries or strawberries and loaves of a Finnish bread called “reikäleipä”.
A cultural program typically includes music, dance, theater, film, and/or a speaker relevant to Finnish or Finnish American culture. Look around when summer arrives: the solstice is celebrated in other communities, too! Check the calendar section of this Guide for details about start-of-summer events in Orange and Winchendon. And that’s just the beginning! The calendar in this Guide is packed with celebrations – strawberry, peach, and apple festivals, even beer festivals and more!
It’s Johnny’s Backyard:
The summer wraps up, appropriately, at Red Apple Farm in Phillipston, with the Appleseed Country Fair, a three-day extravaganza celebrating the regions’ famous native son. Head to the farm to find hayrides, bands playing on two stages, military vehicle exhibitions, tractor pulls, local crafters, food trucks and so much more! A $10 per carload admission fee benefits local organizations including the Athol and Phillipston Fire Departments. And the first 150 cars arriving for the fair will be treated to a “goodie bag” containing gift cards, a ticket for a free hayride and other surprises! There’s always something to celebrate in Johnny’s backyard!