By LISA CAPOBIANCO
West End Association to Celebrate Spirit of Rockwell Park with Festival
From music and dance performances to crafts and food to children’s activities and an antique car show, the Third Annual Rockwell Summer Park Festival will celebrate the West End of Bristol in a variety of ways.
Organized and hosted by Bristol’s West End Association, the festival will take place Saturday, Aug. 16 at Rockwell Park, which was given to the city by Albert and Nettie Rockwell in 1911. The association itself is a non-profit neighborhood group of merchants and residents dedicated to the “preservation, safety, and overall quality of living in the city’s West End.”
Last year, the festival attracted over 10,000 visitors, and the event is free.
“The turnout was fabulous,” said Dave Hamelin, president of the West End Association. “The park was crowded all day long.”
Every year, the festival celebrates and highlights Bristol’s West End merchants and residents. Held at the park from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., the festival features local artists who display a variety of items, including jewelry, skateboard and pop art, illustration, painting, sculpture, photography and face painting. Some of the artists will sell or auction off their creations during the day.
“It is a stepping stone for these artists to show off their work,” said Bobroske.
Besides art, the event also features a basketball, volleyball, and skateboard tournament as well as a “Kids Zone” that is sponsored by Liberty Bank and presented by the Imagine Nation Museum. The day of the festival also will include a drawing for a 42-inch flat-screen television donated by Bobroske Construction. Raffle entries, which will be completed and submitted during the event, are free. At least 50 volunteers have devoted their time to help out with the event.
Hamelin said the event captures the spirit of the West End every year, and also provides local bands an opportunity to get their music heard. Last year, about 20 different bands from the area performed during the festival, said Hamelin. This year, live performances will dominate the main stage for a full afternoon, and musicians also will perform acoustically at the park gazebo and in other areas. Bands scheduled to perform this year include High Octane, Dave and Trish Connelly, Woof, Blue Cherry, Hanging Hills, Soul Sound Review, A Paper Tugboat, Jaime Kent, and Wise Old Moon.
“We try to make it a real, family-friendly block party,” said Hamelin, recognizing the many features of Rockwell Park itself, including the skate park, volleyball courts, splash pad and picnic areas among others. “We’re just out to enjoy the day.”
“We want to promote the West End,” said Tim Bobroske, vice president of the West End Association. “Rockwell Park is such a jewel.”
Currently, a number of local sponsors have shown their support for the festival, including Thomaston Savings Bank, Bristol Hospital, Wheeler Clinic, United Bank, Liberty Bank, Farmington Bank, Minuteman Press, Alliance Bail Bonds, Bargain Book, and the Republican Town Committee.
“Without [the sponsors], we wouldn’t be able to do it,” said Bobroske. “They’re all local people donating.”
Any proceeds after festival costs are paid off will support the association’s programs, special events and clean-up activities, as well as its newsletter and next year’s festival.
“I would like to see it continue being an event that draws the neighborhood together,” said Hamelin.
“It is a real community event,” said Bobroske, adding how his favorite part of the festival is seeing the children take part in different activities.
During a recent meeting, the association discussed several new ideas to continue the “spirit” of the West End. Although specific details have not yet been finalized, the association has planned a fall festival, which will take place Oct. 25 at Indian Rock Nature Preserve. Hamelin said the event will feature beer vendors and food, and proceeds will benefit home repairs for a local veteran, as selected by the Bristol Veterans Council. Hamelin said the project will serve as one of many projects the association will support each year to as a way to give back.
“We’re doing it as a social evening,” said Hamelin, adding how the association is also planning a scholarship opportunity for a graduating senior in Bristol.
“I just want to give back to the West End,” said Bobroske, who grew up in downtown Bristol.
The association has made it a mission to “create and maintain a safe, friendly, and family oriented neighborhood, filled with thriving businesses, convenient public transportation, attractive amenities and activities,” as its statement goes. As a non-profit neighborhood group, the association envisions the community to show their pride by “taking ongoing responsibility for the ongoing care of their homes and businesses, the parks and river, and one another.”
Recently, the association also started growing an edible garden outside the former O’Connell School to donate harvested plants back to the community for local food pantries. Hamelin said the garden is doing well, as volunteers have committed time each day to water the vegetable plants. In March, the association also held the “Taste of Bristol” event, in which proceeds help further the mission of the neighborhood group.
For more information on the Rockwell Summer Festival, visit www.facebook.com/WestEndAssociation. Anyone interested in participating as a vendor or providing other services at the festival can contact Hamelin at (860) 583-3292. For more information about the West End Association, visit westendbristol. org/index.html.
Comments? Email lcapobianco@BristolObserver.com.
By LISA CAPOBIANCO