Thanks to the seeds sewn with some new members, Wilton’s Cannon Grange is blossoming once again.

Members are hoping that this weekend’s annual Agricultural Fair and Exposition will bring the town an opportunity to discover — or rediscover — how this historic organization, which was an integral part of Wilton’s past, may now be a vital part of its future.

The 91st anniversary fair is scheduled for Sunday, Aug. 27, rain or shine, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. People are invited to enter a wide variety of baked goods, homemade foods, flowers, produce, eggs, creative arts including photography and needlepoint, and even animals that have been raised. Entries are welcome right up into early Sunday morning, though they must be registered and in place by 8:30 a.m.

“There have been 800 fair books handed out,” Grange President Douglas Shepard, Jr., noted. “Hopefully everybody who’s got one is entering something.”

For just a $2.00 entrance fee, visitors can also come to just enjoy the fun at the group’s historic home (25 Cannon Rd.) adjacent to the Cannondale Train Station — review the contest entries, enjoy in-person entertainment, mingle with dozens of participating vendors, and even take part in a watermelon-eating contest.

Also, based on the burgeoning number of sponsors for the event, Shepard believes it’s going to be a big day.

“The ad sales are outrageous,” he said of the fair book. “The community is really getting behind us.”

Ingrained in Wilton’s History

The Cannon Grange Credit: Jarret Liotta / GOOD Morning Wilton.

Due to celebrate its 125th birthday next spring, Cannon Grange No. 152 saw its first meeting at the Cannondale home of William B. Smith on April 27, 1899.

That same year the Cannon Hall was constructed by the Cannon Realty Company, a group of several early members who were prominent business people and residents in Cannondale.

The Grange members shifted their twice-monthly meetings there. In 1933, the Cannon Grange 152 purchased the building for $1 from the Cannon Realty Company, which was then dissolved.

While it has continued to meet regularly to date, both the membership and apparent relevance of the Grange have diminished over time. As the building itself had been slowly slumping into some disrepair, membership had declined considerably and local involvement became minimal in the 21st century.

In only the past year, however, a number of new members have brought some enthusiasm and elbow grease to the group. With more community outreach, including a widening number of local organizations and families that are utilizing the hall for private events, the future of Wilton’s Grange is looking brighter.

“I think the farmers who started the Grange would be proud that we helped rejuvenate it and that it’s still a fixture in the community,” said Patricia Tomasetti, who particularly enjoys the history tied in with the group and its location.

Leading the publicity efforts for the group, Tomasetti expressed happiness in seeing them continuing to forge more connections with the community.

Cynthia Quell of Wilton shares a look at a vintage poem written by Helen Gecinceis about being a “Granger.” Credit: Jarret Liotta / GOOD Morning Wilton.

Cynthia Quell of Wilton, a parent of three kids who moved to town shortly before the pandemic, said she’s found the Grange to be a perfect place to embrace her professional and personal interests in the environment and sustainability, as well as give her family a community center with which to interact.

“It’s just something that makes me very happy,” she said, citing the myriad lessons taught to her children through the association, including understanding about animals, gardening, and food sources.

Events like the fair, she said, are also ideal for connecting with other young families, especially those with deeper roots in Wilton and surrounding towns.

“We’re starting to meet people who are established here in the community,” she said.

With diverse activities planned at the Grange into the fall and winter, including a square dance, a Wilton Go Green repair cafe, ax throwing, and visits from Santa Claus, members hope the fair might serve as an opportunity to introduce residents to all that’s being offered.

“We’re really hoping that the community comes out to support us,” Quell said.

A virtual copy of the fair book is available online.

Correction: This article has been updated to correct the name of Cynthia Quell, who had been misidentified as Sarah. It has also been updated to reflect that she has three children, not four.

Correction: The article has been updated to correct the history of the Cannon Grange Hall. It was not built by the town as originally reported. Instead, it was built and owned by the Cannon Realty Company which sold it to the Cannon Grange in 1933 for $1.