New London ― For Cindalee Torres, born and raised in New London, the Harvest Festival at the Old Town Mill is an annual tradition.
She used to come to the festival with her older children, who are now 15 and 20, and now brings her 7-year-old daughter, Nereidalee Jowers, to carry on the tradition and enjoy the festivities, horse-drawn carriage rides face painting.
“It’s something to do with the kids in those days, and she likes it,” Torres said.
They were among families who flocked to the Harvest Festival in New London on Saturday.
People toured the historic mill and enjoyed free hot corn, apple cider donuts and drinks, took wagon rides and played games, listened to music and shopped at the kiosks of the local vendors. Some donned costumes as an early celebration of Halloween.
The festival, organized by the town, started in 2010 and is an opportunity to showcase the mill, as many people who come to the event say they have lived in the town all their lives and never knew that the mill was there because it’s hidden under the bridge, said Judi Cox, the town’s housing and community outreach coordinator who organized the event with Keishla Moto-Santos, the town’s neighborhood coordinator. Volunteers including from the Coast Guard Academy and the International Center for Family Worship helped with the event.
People watched a short video and read exhibits about the 1650 mill, which in 1781 “was burnt down by the British landing party led by Benedict Arnold” and then rebuilt.
Cox said she wanted the kids to know the mill is there, appreciate it, and have fun.
“It really is one of the festivals in New London that is geared towards children and is free,” she said.
Natasha Lacey and her 4-year-old daughter, Wynter Skye Lacey, from New London, and her friend, Liz Lehoux and Lehoux’s 7-year-old son, Keegan Hughes, thought it would be fun to go to the festival after having her learned from a flyer Keegan brought home from school.
The children played games, went to the mill and had their face painted.
“I encourage everyone to come,” Lacey said of the annual event and added that they had a great time.
Felicia Hernandez and her son Kingsley Hotham, 8, of Groton, also came to the festival after hearing about the event which had wagon rides, apple cider donuts and vendors.
“We love supporting local businesses,” Hernandez said.
At the New London Public Library stand, library assistant Ciara Grimes and circulation manager Maritza Vargas were signing people up for library cards, telling them about upcoming library events in November and also giving away supplies for making Halloween and fall themed crafts.
Vargas said it was an opportunity for the community to get to know the library better and for them to get to know the community better.
“I think it’s important to know your community so people have a familiar face when they come to your organization,” Grimes said.
Carmen Baez from Norwich went to the festival with her 8-year-old granddaughter and three of her children, including Candela Rose, 20, to enjoy the mill, the music and the people watching.
“I love being outdoors,” Rose said. “It’s a beautiful fall day.”