STOCKBRIDGE -- Owen Farrell jumped into the fun of the 79th annual Harvest Festival on Saturday at the Berkshire Botanical Gardens..
On a classic New England fall day, the 6-year-old New Marlborough native leaped five feet into a hay bed and also enjoyed some sweet potato chips, and he was just one of thousands to revel in one of the Berkshire County’s oldest festivals.
"They know it well enough where they know what to do," said his mother Melissa Ferrell, who also brought out her 3-year-old son.
The Harvest Festival continues today from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. with proceeds benefiting the Gardens. The event is the nonprofit’s largest fundraiser of the year. Admission is $5 with children allowed in free.
The event includes a record number of vendors and is larger than ever, according to organizers. This year’s event includes a section for local artisans, a farmers market, a kid’s area and food court along with the Festival’s popular discount tag sale and Country Bazaar, a garage-style sale of items donated to Berkshire Botanical.
Despite its history, Berkshire Botanical Society Director of Communications Brian Cruey said the Harvest Festival nevers grows stale. The event benefits from the local and organic farming movement, he said. Vendors from the Pioneer and Hudson Valley commute to participate and sell their locally produced products, Cruey said.
The food court can also be refreshing, he pointed out, because a meal is more likely to be sautéed than deep fried.
The event is also an opportunity to showcase the Berkshire Botanical’s many gardens and programming, which includes a five-week summer program that teaches children ages 5 to 10 about farming.
"It’s the only time some will come to the garden, so it’s our opportunity to touch base with them," Cruey said.
Judy Arienti, of nearby Great Barrington, said the festival was significantly larger than the last time she visited it a decade ago. She spent part of her afternoon going at the tag sale.
Arienti found herself some precious handcrafted Redware pottery, a collectors item.
"You could have walked through in five minutes [a decade ago]," Arienti recalled. "It’s gotten a lot bigger, it’s really been a lot of fun. I won’t wait 10 more years."
Volunteer Reggie Taylor, a former Egremont native who lives in New York City, manages the tag sale. He said before the fair opens he can expect a large crowd to be waiting to purchase clothes, old board games, dishes, and other items.
The items are donated, but the discards can be a cherished treasure for some.
"It is absolute chaos," Taylor said. "Often you’ll have 50 people outside."
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