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Person of the Week
Jill Anderson Perez Prepares to Bring a Taste of Fairs to Summer
East Haven resident Jill Anderson Perez has found a second hometown in North Haven through her involvement with the North Haven Fair. (Photo courtesy of Jill Anderson Perez)
Jill Anderson Perez would have never imagined that the local fair and festival scene would become a big part of her life. Now the lifelong East Haven resident is not only coordinating the Fair Food Festival on the North Haven Fairgrounds this summer, but organizing several other events as well, all while also working full-time in the healthcare industry and raising her three children—nine-year-old Stefan, six-year-old Summer, and two-year-old Grayson—with her husband Felipe.
When Stefan was a baby, the couple opened Christiano’s Pizzeria in North Haven, which they operated for five years. Two years into the business, the food truck industry began to take off and they decided to expand to include Christiano’s Mobile and later adding the Lemonade Grenade.
“The food trucks were so successful that we decided to close the restaurant and because doing the fairs and festivals allowed us to spend more time with the kids,” says Jill. “We began to get involved with fairs through the state, including the North Haven Fair and the East Haven Fall Festival.”
As Jill attended different events throughout the state, she began to see that some were more successful than others. She also began to become ingrained in the vendor community as many of the food truck vendors attend the same events.
“At one point, we were going to a lot of shows that weren’t successful and we’d lose money,” says Jill. “I’d look at the event and talk to the other vendors to try to figure out what was going on.”
Jill began to piece together what made certain events successful and began taking on coordinating different events. She began working with the Milford Food Truck Festival and found that by organizing the events with what she had learned, she was able to make them more successful for herself and the community of vendors.
Over the past several years, Jill has taken on more projects, including several that are in the works for this year, such as the Waterbury Fireworks and Food Truck Extravaganza on July 4, the Manchester Food Truck Festival and Open Air Market from July 24 to 26, the Made In Connecticut Expo on Aug. 14 and 15, and Christmas in Connecticut on Nov. 7.
With COVID, none of the events were able to be scheduled in 2020 and Jill is hoping that this year’s events will continue. At this time, the North Haven Fair is making plans for 2021, but board members also decided to make efforts to bring people to the fairgrounds this summer to not only raise awareness for the improvements to fairgrounds but also to promote the fair.
A monthly Craft Barn Outdoor Series was scheduled for Saturdays, June 19, July 24, Aug. 14, Sept. 11, and Oct. 2 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. While those from the fair were excited to highlight different crafters, they also wanted to explore a way to give people a taste of fair food.
“Since I’ve been a vendor at the fair and my cousin is on the board, they know that I help run some events and they asked I’d be willing to help,” says Jill. “They approached me with the idea and I said, ‘Of course.’ The goal is to get out there, do more events, and bring more awareness there.”
Since then, Jill has been recruiting food vendors to participate in the Fair Food Festival to be held at the North Haven Fairgrounds from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday, June 26 and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday, June 27. While there is no admission, the North Haven Fair Association will also have a booth to generate funds for the fairgrounds.
“I’ve had a very easy time recruiting because the vendors haven’t had much business in the past year because of COVID so they’re very excited,” says Jill. “The festival will lean more toward your typical fair foods. It’s going to be a time for people to come out with a little bit of freedom after COVID and enjoy the foods people missed last year.”
In addition to her full-time job, helping operate the food trucks, and organizing events, she is also busy as a mom of three. Like everyone, her two older children had virtual school last spring, which was a challenge. Jill says that she has been lucky as East Haven returned to school full-time this year and her children’s classes have not had to quarantine.
When Jill’s son became involved in Cub Scouts several years ago, she found herself often bringing her daughter along as well. She soon found out that scouts was open to boys and girls and now not only are both of her older children are involved, but Jill is also the treasurer for the pack, which is based in East Haven.
“They both love it and it’s a great activity for them,” says Jill. “There are hiking trips, camping, hands-on activities, and getting out into nature. We’re all pretty involved in that.”
As COVID is still a major factor in gatherings, Jill is still unsure about exactly what events will look like this season. Despite the unknowns, Jill is looking forward to returning to the fair and festival scene.
“We know we’ll have to take a lot of COVID precautions to make the events as safe as possible,” says Jill. “A lot of the vendors suffered last year and these small businesses are struggling, so it feels good to be able to help put some events out there to hopefully help businesses get back on track.”
Jenn McCulloch is the Correspondent for Zip06. Email Jenn at .