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ROCKLAND – A young girl decked out head-to-toe in a firefighter's costume, complete with a ridged helmet, nears the Rockland Fire Department booth during Saturday's inaugural fall festival.
Firefighter paramedic Josh Landry greets visitors and hands out plastic helmets to children, many sizes smaller than the real-life versions on display at the booth.
"This is like cake," Landry said joking as he gestured toward the stack of hats he was passing out. "You just hand them hats and they get happy."
The fire department booth was one of dozens participating in Saturday afternoon's Rockland Fall Festival. Hundreds of people filled Union Street as they sampled drinks at a packed pop-up beer garden, shopped from local vendors and painted pumpkins with their kids.
Outside the station, a fire engine sat with doors and compartments open so passersby could see the inner workings of the truck. Caution tape wrapped around the truck kept people at a distance, as Landry said the pandemic put a halt to their usual touch-a-truck attraction.
Still, many children seemed to find joy in being so close to a real, live fire truck.
"We're big fans of the touch-a-truck," mother Deana Reardon said.
Her 1-year-old son, Ryder, is a big fire truck fan, she said. She, Ryder and her 3-year-old daughter also enjoyed painting pumpkins, which sat alongside a nearby wall as the Middleboro family waited for them to dry.
Reardon said this was the first big family event they've attended for a while, and the festival seemed safe during the pandemic because it was an outside affair.
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While kids experimented with pumpkin painting designs or completed scavenger hunts throughout the festival, parents and others had the chance to peruse homemade goods from many local vendors.
"Everybody's just in a great mood," farm manager Bianca Meleo said while preparing her stand for customers. "It's a lovely location. Really well-organized, which is super important."
Meleo was presiding over the Middleboro-based Freita's Farm stand. Bundles of apples and assorted pumpkins sat ready for purchase, though Meleo said people are often interested in scrambling to buy the last vestiges of summer they can.
"They're still scrounging for cucumbers and tomatoes," she said, pointing to the end of her booth, where summer produce was displayed. "Pumpkins, winter squash and apples, people love, and then anything they can get their hands on from the summer, they'll grab."
More than fresh food was available, with vendors also offering knit goods, wood-carved toys, CBD products, ceramics and more.
Ceramicist Becca Gillete of Raindrop Ceramic Shop was managing her stand of homemade mugs, plates and other clay goods as the festival kicked off.
Though she's attended a few Rockland farmers' markets before, she said, Saturday felt different.
"There's a lot more people, a lot more kids," Gillete said. "Feels kind of themed, like Halloween-themed."
Several festivalgoers were dressed for Halloween, one as a small Spiderman and a vendor in a Pikachu costume strolled the street during Rockland's first fall festival.
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Reach Alex Weliever at [email protected].
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