The POCO 2022 coordination team includes (from left to right): Rose Marie Angeloni, Mary Giovanni and Elisa Pannone, as well as Steve Torino (not pictured). Photo by Pam Johnson/The Sound
After two years of COVID cancellations, it’s time for four days of fun, entertainment and community, when the North Branford Potato and Corn (PoCo) Festival returns to Augur Field for its 20th anniversary Thursday August 4 to Sunday August 7. .
Some of the exciting new elements coming with PoCo 2022 include the premiere of North Branford’s new “mobile show” (see related story here), which will be the main stage for featured artists. Due to some site layout work on the grounds, a larger middle area – with some surprises, new rides and the third largest traveling Ferris wheel in New England – will face the festival grounds facing the Road 22/Forest Road. New events have been added, including a Friday Night Lights Tractor Pull. To top it all off, what should be one of the best fireworks displays in the state will be launched on the main stage on Saturday night.
All of the events scheduled for each day of the festival, and more, are outlined in this year’s new PoCo Festival Guide and available online at www.nbpotatofest.com
The PoCo Coordination Team of Rose Marie Angeloni, Elisa Pannone, Mary Giovanni and Steve Torino thanks former PoCo Coordinator Jenn McCullouch for her groundwork and help laying the groundwork for this year’s event; before taking on another role which led to her stepping down in early 2022.
They also thank the dedicated volunteers of the PoCo committee who have been working since April to organize a fantastic event.
“We’re all gelling and we all have our slots,” Angeloni said of the teamwork involved in putting PoCo on.
“Between the four of us, we all bring something different,” said Pannone of the coordination team.
Pannone, like Angeloni and Torino, have been volunteer PoCo officials behind the scenes for many years; while Giovanni first got started as a PoCo volunteer a few years ago and is now a part-time PoCo coordinator with North Branford Parks and Recreation.
Parks and Recreation helps host PoCo with the city’s Recreation Commission, of which Torino is chairman. As an entity, PoCo generates its own funding to organize the festival each year. City support includes the use of city-owned Augur property as well as assistance from public works, police, fire and emergency services crews. But with two years of lost fundraising opportunities due to COVID, for this year’s event, the City of North Branford helped get the ball rolling by also committing money from federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) related to the pandemic.
“Because they have not been able to raise funds for the past few years, with ARPA funds, the city council has designated to give them the amount of funds they would normally have raised over the course of of these two years,” said Angeloni, who also sits on the city council.
“It gave us a little cushion to get us started,” Pannone said.
Still, the team had to get to work generating more fundraising dollars and gathering sponsors to help organize PoCo 2022.
“Rose was instrumental in fundraising. She more than doubled our projection through her community fundraising efforts. 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 many unique areas they can sponsor, from fireworks to volunteers, to different games and entertainment, and more.”
PoCo will have a classic car show on Friday, August 5 (5-8 p.m. on the softball field). Saturday, August 6’s popular Antique Tractor Pull is expected to draw a crowd at 11 a.m., while thousands will gather that night to see the PoCo fireworks explode above the main stage at 9:15 p.m. Sunday August 7th. , a related community event, Floyd’s 5K, starts at 9 a.m.; and at 1 p.m., the main stage entertainment will be a fan-favorite for kids, the interactive show and the Madrigal Family Dance Party, including a meet and greet. More amazing entertainment will take center stage throughout the festival, in addition to PoCo’s many offerings of games and contests for kids and families, activities, attractions, delicious food varieties, and many unique offerings of craft and business vendors and non-local profits.
PoCo hours on Thursday, August 4 and Friday, August 5 are from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Saturday August 6 from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday August 7 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Over the past few years, PoCo has attracted about 25,000 guests a year, Angeloni said. Adding a fourth day this year could mean record numbers.
Free admission and free weekend shuttle service are all part of the effort to accommodate the crowds (on-site parking/disabled parking is limited and there’s a $20 fee). Free satellite parking for the shuttle service will be offered on the grounds of Stanley T. Williams Community Center and Totoket Valley Elementary School in Northford and Jerome Harrison Elementary School in North Branford (new this year due to the construction in progress at the secondary school).
“Shuttles run continuously and will drop you right at the entrance,” Angeloni said.
PoCo’s midway entertainment company Fiesta Shows will offer midway wristbands for $60 covering all four days; or one-day wristbands can be purchased for $35 on Thursday, Friday, and Sunday; and $45 on Saturdays). A $5 discount on wristbands is available with online advance purchase, available now at https://www.fiestashows.com/.
Thursday August 4th is North Branford Night at PoCo, with half price on-site parking for Northford/Northford residents with ID. Sunday, August 7 is Volunteer Day.
“All volunteers who work two or more shifts will receive a free wristband for Sunday, so they can come back on Sunday and enjoy the rides,” Pannone said.
Volunteers are always needed and can always sign up now to help; this year by registering at www.nbpotatofest.com
The PocCo coordination team would particularly like to thank the North Branford Public Works Department for their extensive work in preparing and maintaining the festival site and grounds. The pitch will also be guarded with security, Angeloni noted. Public works crews will also help install the mobile show as well as three mobile toilet trailers which are new this year for the PoCo festival.
“Public Works – they do an amazing job. I don’t think we could do it without them,” Pannone said. “I don’t think people realize how much it takes to organize this festival.”
“It’s a big fair for such a small town,” said Giovanni.