By day, the people walked across lawns, down winding paths, through parking lots and around churches. By night, the people followed a torch-lit path under a full moon from street level down into the grassy area behind the nature center, aglow with lights and the sound of laughing and music and the smell of good food.
New Canaan's Harvest Fest, which took place on Sept. 29, had something for everyone, provided that most everyone likes at least one of: Beer, food, live music, games, and friends.
During the afternoon, people milled about, trying samples from the different restaurants and breweries located in two long lines of stands on either side of a stage. Admittance included unlimited access to all food and drink.
One of the booths belonged to Charter Oak Brewing Company, a New Canaan-based beer brewing outfit started by Scott Vallely as a second career after selling his company and working 30 years in the paper industry.
"I started brewing 30 years ago, when people thought I had an illegal still in my basement. I just used brewing kits then. About 10 years ago with the Internet, I could start buying barleys and yeasts," he said. He also explained that since then he's been able to experiment, and since he sold his company, he's been able to get going with Charter Oak Brewing.
The company, which started in May of this year, already has 400 accounts, including nearly every package store and restaurant in town. It currently brews one beer, the 1687 Brown Ale, but Vallely has plans to roll out an India Pale Ale this month, and an American-style pale ale and an Extra Special Bitter later on.
For now, the company is using a brewery owned by Vallely's friend in Massachusetts, but he plans on building a brewery in Fairfield County in the next 24 months.
"Charter Oak is based in New Canaan and will live in New Canaan," he said.
Vallely was joined by his wife, Michelle, and daughter, Colleen. The Vallelys are long-time residents, and all six of their children went to the Nature Center when they were young. Colleen assisted Scott and Michelle in doling out samples of Charter Oak's signature brew, the brown ale. Vallely said that Colleen's Stamford-based company had done a lot of the work on the graphics for the label.
Along with Charter Oak Brewing were numerous other stands and activities. During the afternoon, a group of young men threw a football around. People played table tennis and bocce. The band The Fry Daddys provided live music that ranged from rock to folk.
"From the Chamber's perspective, I love this event. It's another thing that makes New Canaan special. The food is good and the beer is good," she said.
By nightfall, the size of the crowd grew considerably, with the games of the afternoon replaced by groups of people talking and laughing. Live music was provided by the band The Hurricanes.
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