Planning for Fun, Entertainment and Community at POCO Aug. 4 to 7
NORTH BRANFORD - After two years of COVID cancellations, it’s time for four days of fun, entertainment, and community, when North Branford’s Potato and Corn (PoCo) Festival returns to Augur Field for its 20th anniversary year Thursday, Aug. 4 through Sunday, Aug. 7.
Some exciting new elements arriving with PoCo 2022 include the premiere of North Branford’s new “show mobile” (see related story here), which will be the main stage for headline entertainers. Due to some field site configuration work, a larger midway area – with some surprises, new rides, and New England’s third largest traveling Ferris Wheel – will front the festival grounds facing Route 22/Forest Road. New events have been added including a Friday Night Lights Tractor Pull. Topping it all off is what’s expected to be one of the best fireworks displays in the state launching over the main stage on Saturday night.
The PoCo coordinator team of Rose Marie Angeloni, Elisa Pannone, Mary Giovanni and Steve Torino thank past PoCo coordinator Jenn McCullouch for her legwork, and helping to lay the groundwork, for this year’s event; before taking another role which caused her to step down in early 2022.
They also thank the dedicated PoCo committee volunteers that have been working since April to pull together a fantastic event.
“We all are gelling, and we all have our niches,” said Angeloni of the teamwork at play to put on PoCo.
“Between the four of us, we all bring something different,” said Pannone of the coordinator team.
Pannone, like Angeloni and Torino, have been behind-the-scenes PoCo volunteer leads for many years; while Giovanni first jumped in as a PoCo volunteer a few years back and is now a part-time PoCo coordinator with North Branford Parks and Recreation.
Parks and Recreation helps host PoCo together with the Town’s Recreation Commission, of which Torino is chair. As an entity, PoCo generates its own funding to put on each year’s festival. Support from the Town includes use of the town-owned Augur property as well as the assistance of public works, police, fire, and emergency service crews. But with two years of fundraising opportunities lost due to COVID, for this year’s event, the Town of North Branford helped get the ball rolling by also committing some money from pandemic-related American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) federal monies.
“Because they haven’t been able to fundraise for the last few years, with the ARPA funds, the Town Council designated to give them the amount of funds they normally would have raised in those two years,” said Angeloni, who also serves on the Town Council.
“That gave us a little bit of a cushion to help us get going,” said Pannone.
Still, the team had to hit the ground running to generate more fundraising dollars and gather sponsors to help put on PoCo 2022.
“Rose has been key in fundraising. She has more than doubled what our projection was with her efforts to fund raise in the community. And we have a ton of local sponsors. It’s really amazing and it’s what allows us to do so much,” said Giovanni. “We have a lot of unique areas that they can sponsor, from the fireworks to volunteers, different games and entertainment, and more.”
PoCo will bring in a classic car show on Friday, Aug. 5 (5 to 8 p.m. on the softball field). The popular Antique Tractor Pull on Saturday, Aug. 6 is expected to pull in a crowd at 11 a.m., while thousands will gather that night to see PoCo’s fireworks display blast off above the main stage at 9:15 p.m. On Sunday, Aug. 7, a related community event, Floyd’s 5K, kicks off at 9 a.m.; and at 1 p.m., main stage entertainment will be kids’ fan favorite, The Madrigal Family Interactive Show and Dance Party, including a meet and greet. More amazing entertainment will take the main stage throughout the festival, in addition to PoCo’s many offerings of kids’ and family games and contests, activities, attractions, delicious varieties of food, and plenty of unique offerings from craft and business vendors and local non-profits.
PoCo hours on Thursday, Aug. 4 and Friday, Aug. 5 are 5 to 10 p.m.; on Saturday, Aug. 6 from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and on Sunday, Aug. 7, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
In past years, PoCo has drawn about 25,000 guests annually, said Angeloni. This year’s addition of a fourth day may mean record numbers.
Free admission and free weekend shuttle service are all part of the effort to welcome crowds back (parking/handicapped parking onsite is limited and there is a $20 fee). Free satellite parking for shuttle service will be offered at Stanley T. Williams Community Center/Totoket Valley Elementary School lots in Northford and at Jerome Harrison Elementary School in North Branford (new this year due to construction underway at the high school).
“The shuttles run continuously and will drop you right off at the entrance,” said Angeloni.
PoCo’s midway entertainment company, Fiesta Shows, will be offering midway ride wristbands for $60 covering all four days; or one-day wristbands can be purchased for $35 on Thursday, Friday and Sunday; and $45 on Saturday). A $5 wristband discount is available with advance purchase on-line, available now at https://www.fiestashows.com/.
Thursday, Aug. 4, is North Branford Night at PoCo, with half-price on-site parking for Northford/Northford resident with identification. Sunday, August 7 is Volunteer Day.
“All the volunteers that work two or more shifts will get a free wristband for Sunday, so they can come back Sunday and enjoy the rides,” said Pannone.
Volunteers are always needed, and can still sign up now to help out; this year by registering at www.nbpotatofest.com
The PocCo coordinator team particularly wants to thank North Branford’s Public Works Department for its extensive work in preparing and maintaining the festival site and fields. The field will also be monitored with security, Angeloni noted. Public Works crews will also assist with setting up the show mobile as well as three mobile restroom trailers which are new this year to PoCo fest.
“Public Works — they do an amazing job. I don’t think we could do it without them,” said Pannone. “I don’t think people realize how much it takes to put on this festival.”
“It’s a big fair for such a small town,” said Giovanni.