North Branford Recreation Secretary Rosanne Krajewski volunteered for the town's very first Potato and Corn (PoCo) Festival back when it was a one-day event in 2002. This year, she is PoCo Festival coordinator, overseeing four days of food, fun, and entertainment, July 31 to Aug. 3 at Augur's Field on Route 22. (Photo by Pam Johnson/The Sound
As festival coordinator for North Branford's Potato and Corn (PoCo) Festival, Rosanne Krajewski recently received news as thrilling as any ride rising from the midway at Augur's Field July 31 to Aug. 3. Just a short time ago-in fact, too late for the PoCo brochure publishing date-Rosanne was notified of a very special donation to this year's program: the addition of Nashville star/American Idol favorite Kendall Phillips as headline act for opening night, Thursday, July 31. Phillips's appearance is being donated by PoCo's amusement company, Northeast Midways, LLC. "Courtesy of Northeast Midways, we have an American Idol coming to PoCo," says Rosanne. "We're very excited, beyond excited, that Kendall Phillips will be our headliner on Thursday night. We are so thankful to our amusement company for doing this for us." Now in its 13th year, PoCo is run by volunteers and relies on the generous contributions of sponsors to provide the majority of financial (and in-kind) support needed to make the festival happen. "I can't say enough about our sponsors," says Rosanne. "Some of them have been with us since we've started and they're still supporting us." PoCo also owes a debt of thanks to the Town of North Branford, which opens Augur's Field on Route 22 and supports the event with assistance from Public Works and Police (including services the police union additionally donates), Fire, and EMT officers. With all it has to offer, PoCo draws 25,000 attendees annually. As always, it's run by volunteers through North Branford Parks & Recreation. More than 180 volunteers helped last year, from teens parking cars to seniors scrubbing potatoes for PoCo's signature baked potato and roasted corn tent. Volunteers can still sign up to help, says Rosanne. "Some of our volunteers help for a four-hour shift, others help out in advance, other people sign up for more than one day. I also have a fantastic committee of 25 people who work on this all year long," she notes. PoCo's four-day extravaganza is spiked with special events, including the popular Car Show (Friday), huge fireworks display (Saturday), and Cow Chip Raffle, Motorcycle Show, and 5K Run on Sunday, when a new entertainment component will also join the line-up: the PoCo Folk Fest. "We're going to have seven bands in seven hours! We hope it will draw even more people on Sunday," says Rosanne. When something incredible isn't happening on stage (check the daily band schedule for details), in the fields, or up in the sky, PoCo offers plenty of family fun. In addition to midway rides, food, and craft vendors are daily contests and games for kids of all ages centered on country fair fun (sack races, pie-eating contests, corn shucking races, and more). While any revenue generated for PoCo helps pay the bills and build a "rainy day fund," PoCo also hopes to build its revenue stream for wish-list items including increasing its North Branford High School (NBHS) scholarship money and adding to the entertainment budget to help draw even more attendees, says Rosanne. Bringing in a crowd benefits not only PoCo, but also generates interest in North Branford, because "it shows everyone what a great community this is," she says. While this year's PoCo parking fee has been increased to $10 per car ($15 for premier parking), North Branford residents can park for free on July 31 (just show a driver's license). In addition, it's "Throw-back Thursday" with reduced price midway wristbands ($20 instead of $25). Gate admission, as always, is free. "It's our way of thanking North Branford residents for supporting us," says Rosanne. "So come out on Thursday night and help us kick off the festival!" The kickoff includes NBHS select choir singing the National Anthem, a performance by NBHS student duo Kaylea and Carissa (at 5 p.m.), and Kendall Phillips's main stage performance at 8 p.m. Rosanne lives in Middletown, but has a strong connection with North Branford through her work as recreation secretary and her years of volunteer service to PoCo. After volunteering from 2002 through 2007, she moved to Florida with her husband to follow his career, but grandchildren and the draw of living in this area pulled them back by 2010. Rosanne rejoined the Parks & Recreation staff, moving with the department to Stanley T. Williams Community Center last fall. "I loved the festival and would come down and volunteer every year when I was around. When we moved back here in 2010, I worked on the festival that summer. I missed it! I love North Branford," says Rosanne. "It's such great community. That's what keeps bringing me back to the festival each year, too. I love the community and the people." The 2014 North Branford Potato and Corn Festival is July 31 to Aug. 3 at Augur's Field, Route 22. For more information, visit www.nbpotatofest.com.