Kelsey Bogen & Ethan Donecker

July 21, 2018

Lavender Pond Farm, Killingworth, and Durham Fairgrounds, Durham

Photos by J. Benson Photography


officiant Laura Francis, Durham

planner/day-of coordinator Kaylee Powers, Durham

dress designer Watters Bridal

dress boutique Lovely Bride, New York

shoes Chinese Laundry

bridesmaids’ dresses David’s Bridal

tuxedos Men’s Wearhouse

videographer Kara Levine, KML Productions, Middlefield

dj  Jock in the Box Entertainment, Durham

caterer Taíno Smokehouse, Middletown

florist The Green Petal, Wallingford

cake Callan Pollitt, Sugar Therapy, Middletown

make-up GlamBoss Makeup, Newington

hair Kelly Marie Artistry, Glastonbury

invitations Vistaprint

transportation Gateway Limousine, Waterbury

Christmas was never Kelsey Bogen’s favorite holiday. Nor was Fourth of July, Thanksgiving or even her birthday. Kelsey’s fave has always been the Friday of the last full weekend in September, when all the schools in Durham are closed for the day so that the schoolchildren, their parents, their grandparents and so on can help out at the event of the year: the one-and-only Durham Fair.

Founded in 1916, the fair is very much “a part of growing up in Durham,” Kelsey says. In fact, the fair (spread over four days at the end of September) is not only the state’s largest agricultural fair, it is run 100 percent by volunteers, including much of Kelsey’s devoted family.

“It’s really something special,” says Kelsey, who “always knew” she wanted to celebrate her wedding at the fair — “especially after spending eight fairs with my high school sweetheart [that would be Ethan] by my side.”

Ethan Donecker also grew up in Durham and, like Kelsey, attended Coginchaug Regional High School. They began dating in 2009, both went on to attend the University of Connecticut, and on July 21, 2018, following an outdoor ceremony at Lavender Pond Farm in Killingworth, held their wedding reception in the Llama Barn at the Durham Fairgrounds.

“We were a month shy of nine years of dating when we finally tied the knot,” Kelsey says. “We knew each other so well, and had been waiting for this day for so many years, that everything we put into our wedding reflected who we are as a couple. That included using vendors who were people we knew, grew up with or were local to our community, which was very important to us.” Indeed, Kelsey and Ethan’s officiant was none other than Durham First Selectwoman Laura Francis.

“I love the smell of lavender,” says Kelsey, so the ceremony was planned for when Lavender Pond Farm’s more than 9,000 lavender plants would be in full bloom — and were they ever! Bridesmaids carried strikingly simple bouquets of fresh lavender cut from the fields and arranged, as was Kelsey’s bouquet, by The Green Petal in Wallingford. Ethan and the bridal party hitched a ride to the ceremony via the Lavender Express, the farm’s purple-and-white mini “steam engine,” while Kelsey made her grand entrance in a way-cool, fully restored 1947 Ford farm truck.

At the fairgrounds, the rustic-turned-chic Llama Barn with its exposed beams, weathered barnboard and nary a llama in sight (their invites got lost in the mail), glowed with carnival-style lighting hung by the intrepid DIYers. Vintage tractors and bales of hay were scattered throughout, and the bride’s love of lavender carried through to the reception via a sprig tucked into each place setting and a lavender cake with passion-fruit filling from Sugar Therapy in Middletown for the new Mr. & Mrs. to cut — an 8-foot-tall letter “D” made by Kelsey’s stepfather, Hans, out of cedar standing proudly in the background.

“Many of our friends and family thought we were crazy when we said we were going to get married at the fair,” Kelsey remembers, “but they were in shock when they saw the final outcome of all our hard work. We could not have asked for better day.”

A day at the Durham Fair that will surely go down in family history.