The Hartford Optimist Club
The Hartford Ohio Optimist Club was founded on September 26, 1956 by a group of local citizens who wanted to be part of an organization dedicated to helping the youths in their area. Hartford is a small rural community located in northeastern Ohio. As part of Optimist International, the Hartford Club adopted their creed:
Promise Yourself ...
To be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind.
Through the hard work and dedication of its membership’s, the Hartford Optimist Club has been able to meet its objectives of helping the youth in the local communities. Over the past 55 years the club has sponsored or assisted many youth related activities such as:
o PeeWee baseball, youth baseball and softball sport teams.
Some of this support has been ongoing for many years, while others are one-time support to meet a specific need brought to the attention of the club.
As with most organizations fund raising has always been required to support the good works of the club. Every year since it was founded in 1956 the Hartford Optimists have sponsored a Pumpkin Sale. Over the years it has been expanded to include some crafts, Indian corn, bales of straw, cornstalks, gourds and squash. In late October they even have hedgeapples which are reputed to keep insects out of the basement.
The whole community gets to benefit from the all hard work put into the Pumpkin Sale. Along with long hours spent manning the booth to sell the items are many hours of preparation that go on for months prior to the sale. Seeds must be ordered; fields prepared and planted on donated space; plants must be sprayed to prevent insect and mold problems; harvesting and transporting the items; all of these activities take many long hours by the Optimists and friends.
The Pumpkin Sale one of the first in northeastern Ohio, is located at the Hartford Orchards on the square at the intersection of Rt 305 and Rt 7. The sale opens for the weekend of the Hartford Apple Festival; then re-opens the last Saturday in September and remains open every day through October 31st.
Numerous other fund raisers were held such as spaghetti suppers, roast beef dinners and steak fries. In 1983 the first Haunted Hayride was held. It was one of the first haunted hayrides in northeastern Ohio. For the first 5 years it was located at the Pick-Your-Own orchard on Rt 305. In 1988 it moved to Hartford Orchard on the square. Then in 2001 the Haunted Hayride moved to its present home at StoryLand Tree Farm on Rt 7 about 5 miles north of the Hartford square. Riding on tractor pulled trailers through the dark rows of Christmas trees, the participants are startled, thrilled and entertained by several scenes. These scenes are mainly created by Optimist members, their friends and families, but some years other organizations (as fund raisers for them) or organizations that have received support will create scenes. This was one of the first Haunted Hayrides in the area and while others have come and gone, due to all the hard work and dedication of many volunteers this one continues to grow and improve every year. The Haunted Hayride is only held on Fridays and Saturdays in October since it is all volunteer. There is a non-haunted hayride that starts at 5:30 – 7:00p for the youngest riders (or the faint of heart). From 7:30 – 10:00p the haunted hayride is held. Food and beverages are available to purchase; you can even cook your hotdog over an open fire. A fun time for the whole family.
With the continuing success of the Pumpkin Sale and the Haunted Hayride, the Hartford Optimist are usually able to raise enough money to support the youth activities. If bad weather causes the Haunted Hayride to be cancelled it can greatly affect the monies available and youth activity support has to be reduced.