Waterford ― If you were dressed in a costume and listening to spooky tunes on Sunday afternoon, chances are you were at Camp Harkness’ Fall Fest.
Families flocked to camp for food trucks, craft vendors, fall-themed crafts for kids, face painting, hay bale rides and a costume contest in the purpose of supporting the Camp Harkness Foundation.
“We’re just trying to engage the community so they see what we are,” said director Elisa Marcoux.
Marcoux, dressed in her lobster costume, said that although the camp had held similar events in the summer, Sunday was the first time they had held a fall festival. All the money raised by the camp will be invested in a new playground for the campers, which Marcoux says costs more than $300,000.
Camp Harkness is one of the few state parks in the country dedicated for the exclusive use of people with disabilities, along with their family and friends. Marcoux estimates that more than 6,000 people use the park’s array of cabins, cabins, tent sites, picnic pavilions, scenic walkways and gardens each year.
“We give people the opportunity to sell their products and to involve the community more in our camp and to see more of our camp,” Marcoux said.
Costumed children, with their parents not too far behind, wandered from one food truck to another in search of lunch. You can grab a slice of pepperoni pizza at the Children’s Center of Hamden Pizza Truck or stop by the Shaking Crab Truck for seafood dishes and fried finger foods, while listening to a DJ play classical music Halloween themed.
After a hay bale ride around camp, Momma’s ice cream truck and cannoli truck took care of dessert.
Once everyone had a full stomach, it was time to shop. There were about 20 vendors on hand selling homemade jewelry, blankets, crafts, candles, and candy, including dog treats.
A former Camp Harkness camper, Kyle Scarpulla, was stationed at his own table.
Scarpulla, 21, has her own business called “Kyle’s Kreations.” Scarpulla has autism, so when it came time for him to find a job, he turned to arts and crafts. With the help of his mother, Kenia Waldo, his grandmother, Viola Waldo, and his support dog, Daisy, Scarpulla makes jewelry, blankets, greeting cards, pet paw balm at his home. and pet treats.
Scarpulla, from West Haven, said Sunday was the third or fourth event he had a table at. He said at every event, including Sunday’s Fall Fest, he donates 10% of his earnings to the organization hosting the event. As a former camper himself, Scarpulla said “it’s cool” to be able to donate money for a new playground.
A brisk walk up a hill brought visitors to the camp’s main office, where kids could paint pumpkins, get their face painted and eat Rita’s Italian gelato. Marcoux said Home Depot donated the pumpkins for the event while Rita donated the Italian gelato. The Waterford Police Department was even on hand to demonstrate the K-9 unit.
Shortly after the police K-9s showed off their skills, Jonas Roque and his younger brother Jacob grabbed some Italian ice cream to end their day.
Jonas, 9, was dressed as a red Power Ranger with a cup of mango gelato in his right hand. Jacob, 5, was a race car driver version of Mickey Mouse and was munching on a candy floss frozen treat.
The two brothers had “a lot of fun” with their older sister, Angelie Santos. The trio painted pumpkins, saw “cool” homemade jewelry. Jacob was delighted to see his teacher on the hay bale walk.
“We want the community to come and we want it to be inclusive and a camp for everyone,” camp manager Carrie Rogers said of the event.