Cassandra Sweet and her family have always remembered seeing the signs and fliers for Essex Elementary School (EES) PTO’s Harvest Fair each fall. Even before her oldest child was attending EES, they were attending the Harvest Fair.
“My husband and I had gone to a wedding and my mother-in-law had seen the fliers and signs around town, so she brought [our children],” said Sweet, who now has a 4th-grader and 2nd-grader at EES as well as a child in preschool. “Every year since then, they’ve wanted to go.”
Once Sweet’s oldest daughter got to kindergarten, she encouraged her mom to volunteer at the Harvest Festival. Sweet agreed and has worked on it ever since. Last year, she was co-chair of the event and this year she is chairing the event.
This year’s Harvest Festival is Sunday, Oct. 1 from noon to 4 p.m. at EES. While the event is aimed at EES’s students from grades pre-K to 6, the whole community is welcome. There will be bouncehouses and inflatables, games, raffles, food, a silent auction, and a farmers’ market selling produce, jams, baked goods, and items the students have made in their media center class.
“The Harvest Fair is the school’s largest annual fundraiser,” said Sweet, who is vice president of the PTO. “We use the funds raised for educational enhancements, like iPads in the classroom, new area rugs for circle time, and replacing computers that need to be replaced.”
Sweet points out that in addition to using the funds to purchase items used in school, the EES PTO is “one of the only schools” that funds all of the field trips except Sturbridge Village for every student throughout their time at EES. The PTO also hosts a cultural arts event each month.
There is no admission fee to the Harvest Fair, but tickets are sold and can be used to enjoy the inflatables, play games, purchase food, and more. There will be hamburgers, hot dogs, and soups to choose from.
Games include squash bowling, knock the cans, cornhole, giant Connect 4, tic tac toe, ladder rings, and tossing pennies into a pumpkin. In addition to the traditional bouncehouses, Sweet also booked a bungee run, a wrecking ball course, and an obstacle course. There will also be a giant couch with photo props.
“I wanted to add a few things that appeal to the older kids, too,” said Sweet. “The cake walk is another very popular event. It’s like musical chairs, but kids stop on a number and if their number is chosen, they win a cake.”
Volunteers bake the cake prizes and many volunteers are needed to run the Harvest Fair. Sweet has been working on the event since August and hopes to have at least 100 volunteers helping as the event draws more than 300 attendees.
The cake walk isn’t the only chance fairgoers will have to win a prize. There is also a silent auction with items such as an iPod Touch, Yankees tickets, and a week of summer camp at Camp Hazen donated by local businesses and families. There are also a number of raffles with each grade choosing a theme and creating baskets.
“It gets the students and teachers involved and having fun,” said Sweet. “The kids are always so excited to pick a theme, put the baskets together, and show their parents which one their grade put together that day.”
Other fun includes face-painting, glitter tattoos, and paint-your-own pumpkins. There will be a scarecrow-making station with all scarecrows that are created to be place around town for the scarecrow walk.
“This year there will be a lot more hands-on stuff for the kids,” said Sweet. “The Harvest Fair gives everyone a day to bring the kids together and let them have fun. The entire event is focused 150 percent on the kids.”