WATERVILLE — Six-year-old Kate Boudreau eagerly scooped handfuls of pumpkin seeds from her soon-to-be jack-o-lantern, while she and other area grade-schoolers took part in familiar fall activities at the annual Harvest Fest Sunday afternoon.

This year, however, the children’s activities were staffed with Colby College students such as Carmen Cordova, who stood behind Kate holding the pumpkin’s crown.

Kate’s grandmother, Sandra Paulette, 71, said she was unaware that the college students would be playing a larger role in the festivities this year, and their involvement was a nice surprise.

“I think it’s just wonderful that they’re helping out,” she said.

About 50 Colby College students through service groups, sports teams and other clubs helped with this year’s Harvest Fest, a family event with activities such as hay rides, scarecrow-making and pumpkin-carving.

The students helped to host the festival in lieu of holding the Hill ’n the Ville, a free music festival thrown by Colby that was discontinued this year.

The day of live music, food and activities held every September since 2007 was combined this year with Harvest Fest, a program of Waterville Main Street, in an effort to make progress on Hill ’n the Ville’s original goal to connect college students and Waterville residents.

Jennifer Olsen, executive director of Waterville Main Street, said that when the Hill ’n the Ville and the Harvest Festival were two separate events, the connection sought between students and residents didn’t happen.

This year, she said the students and community members were interacting with each other, with students running activities such as pumpkin bowling and scarecrow stuffing.

“This creates a more authentic interaction,” she said.

Standing by booths of downtown restaurants selling food, Colby senior Philip Hussey said events like Sunday’s build ties between the college and the community and could help draw students to the downtown to eat and shop.

Hussey, 21, of Kennebunk, said event organizers hoped by sending campus groups to the festival, they would better achieve the original goal of Hill ’n the Ville.

“Waterville really makes Colby what it is,” said Hussey. “Anything that can integrate the students more with the community is something we try to really jump on.”

The college also offered shuttle service throughout the day between the campus and downtown.

Olsen said she was also pleased a Thomas College student volunteered at the event and hopes to continue to build those ties.

Bryan Riddell, 21, a senior marketing major interning with Waterville Main Street, said he hopes to encourage more students from his school to interact with city residents and support the area.

“When I came to school I fell in love with the Waterville community,” he said. “I want to help with any way we can connect with the community to make that relationship stronger.”

Waterville residents Desiree Tucker, 33, and Melanie Chalmers, 41, who had brought their two dogs to the event, said they were enthusiastic about the students’ involvement and hope the connection will grow.

“I think a lot of people don’t always think of Waterville as a college town, which is sad but it’s true,” Chalmers said.

Kaitlin Schroeder — 861-9252
[email protected]