|By Jennifer Sawyer|
It's a good year for peaches.
And on Aug. 18, the popular pitted fruit will enjoy its annual weekend of fame. The Peach Festival in Wilbraham has come to be a summer staple for local residents, and the weekend celebration of the juicy fruit will return Aug. 18-20 to the Fountain Park fairground for its twenty-second year.
The first Peach Festival took place Aug. 31, 1985 on the Minnechaug Regional High School grounds. In 1993, the festival turned into a three-day event, and in 1999, the festival moved to the state-owned Pheasant farm, now known as Fountain Park, which became the permanent location of the fair.
The festival is sponsored by the Wilbraham Community Association. The non-profit organization was founded in 1985 and exists to raise funds for public park development, scholarships, and grants for various projects.
With a schedule full of different entertainment events and various other features and activities, the festival is sure to excite even the most skeptical fairgoer.
The festival will host a rock-climbing wall and power jump, along with a number of craft and food booths. The fair will also feature a business showcase, kids games, the "Lil' Peach Pit" for small children, and the annual Grucci Fireworks, taking place on the evening of Aug. 19. The festival will also host musical performances by Union Jack, Memories, and Moose and the High Top, among others.
Children can look forward to a number of events specifically catered to them, as the festival will host such entertainers as magician and balloon artist Ed Popielarczyk, storyteller Roger Ticknell, Chit Chat the clown, wild bird expert Julie Collier, juggler Paul Richmond, and Dave from Dave's Soda and Pet Food City.
Families will also be able to enjoy a screening of "Superman" starring Christopher Reeve, beginning at dusk at the fairgrounds on Aug. 18.
The morning of Aug. 19 will kickoff the annual Peach Festival Parade at 10 a.m. The Parade, led by Marshal Jennifer Nowak, will commence on Main Street and proceed down Tinkham Road. Among the many floats and bands will be 2006 Peach Queen Kaleigh Toole, selected at the annual Peach Queen Pageant on July 24. The parade will also feature the Quaboag Highlanders, the largest show pipe-band in Massachusetts.
Aug. 20, the final day of the festival, will host the second annual Peach Festival Road Race. Sponsored by the Knights of Columbus of St Cecilia's Church, the five-mile event begins at Soule Road School and ends at the Fountain Park festival grounds. Runners will enjoy free t-shirts, a peach pancake breakfast after the race, and a number of prizes awarded to the top five runners in the male and female categories.
The race was established last year with the intent of earning money to provide local high school students with scholarship awards. The Race Committee was proud to see the results of the funds of last year's competition, as the first-ever scholarship recipients are Brendan Murphy and Philip Barber, both 2006 graduates of Minnechaug Regional High School.
Roger Fontaine Jr., member of the town's Race Committee, expressed his confidence in the future growth of the race.
"Last year's event drew 160 entrants, and our goal this year is to reach 200 runners," Fontaine said.
Those wishing to participate can find a registration form at the festival's official web site, www.peachfestival.org. The entry fee to register is $18, or $20 on the day of the race.
The last day of the festival also marks the traditional "Friendly's family fun day," a day jam-packed with a variety of family entertainment.
Families can look forward to performances by the Dazzle school of dance and a number of singers and musicians.
The festival will conclude with "Shakin All Over," an entertaining show including a vintage car display, best dressed 50s couple contest, and twist song competition.
With hopes of good weather for the much-anticipated weekend, festivalgoers are in for an experience that's simply peachy.