WINCHESTER — Fried pickles and sliced pickles, pickle spears and pickles on a stick.
From pickle popcorn to pickle-ade (a dill-icious take on lemonade) and pickle-topped chili cheese dog french fries, food vendors at Saturday’s 22nd annual Winchester Pickle Festival did not disappoint in their variations on the event’s signature snack.
Other crafters peddled pickle-patterned memorabilia, such as holiday ornaments, jewelry, cat toys, kitchen aprons and T-shirts, and families took photos with a green-clad Mr. Pickle (known on every other day of the year as state Rep. Henry Parkhurst).
At least 5,000 people meandered through the tents dotting the downtown area Saturday, according to Kevin Bazan, chairman of the Winchester Pickle Festival Committee.
“When it’s 75 [degrees] and sunny like it is today, people show up from all over New Hampshire,” he said — and from neighboring states, too.
Aside from the exposure for Winchester, higher festival attendance benefits the nonprofit organizations and local groups that run many of the vendor booths as fundraisers, Bazan pointed out. The women’s basketball team from Franklin Pierce University sold fried foods, for instance, and members of the town’s community center made freshly squeezed lemonade — with optional pickle slices, of course.
Walker Wright-Moore is a board member at the Ellen Lambert Murphy Memorial Community Center, better known as ELMM, and he explained that lemonade sales will help fund a playground.
The center set up at last year’s festival, too, and Wright-Moore said the growth has been encouraging. Events like these are important for towns like Winchester, he said, where there might not be much activity on a regular basis.
“It’s trying to change old impressions of Winchester,” Wright-Moore said.
Police Chief Mike T. Tollett believes this year’s festivities were far more organized from a safety perspective. For the first time in his seven years with the town, the police department joined the pickle committee’s meetings and helped plan logistics, such as parking, with resident complaints and feedback in mind.
“What I try to do is create partnerships,” said Tollett, who became chief in December.
As a result, police closed more roads and restricted parking in certain areas, including erecting barriers on Richmond Road, which has been congested during the festival in past years from parked cars.
He and some organizers have already been brainstorming ideas on how to improve next year, as supporting the festival’s continued success benefits the town and the local economy, he said.
“It’s a source of great pride for the people who work here and the people who live here.”