By LISA CAPOBIANCO
The Rockwell Park Summer Festival seems to get bigger and better every year for the Bristol community.
Last Saturday, a constant stream of individuals and families came to Rockwell Park throughout the day to enjoy live music, food and other festivities while checking out a variety of vendors. Organized and hosted by the West End Association, the 4th annual Rockwell Park Summer Festival also featured a car show, skateboarding competition, and craft vendors. New this year was a pie eating contest sponsored by Harvest Bakery.
The all-day event celebrates and showcases Bristol’s West End merchants and residents.
Last year’s festival saw sunny skies and a crowd of folks from Bristol as well as other communities, and this year was no different.
“It’s really heartening to see [kids and families’] have a good time,” said Dave Hamelin, president of the West End Association.
Hamelin added how the event also brings a strong level of volunteerism, as 50 volunteers from all walks of life helped out in a variety of ways.
“That’s what really makes the festival go,” said Hamelin.
In addition, 20 non-profit groups and organizations participated in this year’s festival, talking one-on-one with the community and distributing information about what they do. Hamelin said this was this year’s festival saw the largest number of non-profits participating.
“They’re volunteering their time to come here and talk about their mission,” said Hamelin.
One new group to the festival was the Cambodian Society, which performed on the main stage for the first time, bringing over a dozen dancers. Hamelin said the festival served as a great opportunity for them to reach out to the community.
“This is their big exposure to the public,” said Hamelin.
For the American Clock & Watch Museum, the festival was a great way to show families how it is a fun place to visit, said Executive Director Patti Philippon. The museum spent the day not only informing families more about what it offers, but also interacted with adults and children through its “Minute to Win It” game. The museum also showcased its new logo by selling its “Tick Tock Tonic” bottled beverages.
“This is a great thing for us,” said Philippon, adding the festival showcases everything people need to know about Bristol all in one place. “We want to encourage people to come back and see what’s new.”
For the New England Carousel Museum, the festival served as an opportunity to reach out to the public about a number of upcoming events, such as the 20th annual Harley Davidson raffle. The raffle benefits the non-profit’s educational programming and general operations.
“We get to meet the community,” said museum manager Dori Green.
Meanwhile, Wheeler Clinic continued its outreach to the Bristol community, informing individuals and families about its Health and Wellness Center on North Main Street. From well-child care and immunizations and physical exams to women’s health to integrated behavioral health care, Wheeler Clinic provides a variety of medical health services to people of all ages. Its facility also welcomes walk-ins and provides coordination and referral for dental care and specialty health services.
In addition, Wheeler Clinic has worked closely with the West End Association to inform and help people in the West End who may need any of its services. In January, Wheeler participated in the Association’s first-ever health and wellness expo.
“This is the best way to meet people and let them know how we can help them,” said Susan Walkama, president & CEO of Wheeler Clinic. “Wheeler provides care to the entire family.”
Friends of the Bristol Animal Shelter also spread its mission during the festival. The rescue group helps the Bristol Pound by seeking to find loving homes for dogs in the pound and helping to improve the living conditions at the pound. The group also helps obtain veterinary care for dogs in the pound and placing dogs on Petfinder and Facebook.
“It’s great to inform people about the pound,” said Trish Ulin, president of Friends of the Bristol Animal Shelter. “It helps us get our name out.”
The West End Association 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.” Each year the Association’s “Taste of Bristol,” which serves as a major fund raiser for the Rockwell Summer Park Festival. This year, the association sold 1,000 tickets for Taste of Bristol, which kicked off in March. Taste of Bristol allows customers to receive 20 percent off their entire check at over a dozen local participating restaurants.
In addition to that, the festival has received strong support from a variety of sponsors, said Hamelin. This year’s festival sponsors include Thomaston Savings Bank, Bristol Hospital, Liberty Bank, ConnectiCare, Wheeler Clinic, Farmington Bank, the Republican Town Committee and Minuteman Press, as well as the Democratic Town Committee and Sassu Cuts.
“The Bristol community has been awesome for coming through with sponsors,” said Hamelin.
Mayor Ken Cockayne said the Rockwell Summer Park Festival seems to grow every year, commending the West End Association for the organization and planning involved in making the event a success.
“I love to see people and families with smiles on their faces,” said Cockayne. “That’s what it’s all about.”
The festival featured performances by 15 bands and musical acts and food vendors and food trucks, as well as family fun activities, including a car show hosted by the Bristol Auto Club, craft vendors, face painting, and a live painting of a mural.
In the Kids Zone, children of all ages immersed themselves in a variety of activities from an obstacle course to bubbles, spin art and face painting to a building activity with Home Depot to carnival games. Sponsored by Liberty Bank and presented by Imagine Nation, A Museum Early Learning Center, Kids Zone has become a major highlight for children who attend the festival each year.
“We enjoy watching kids and their families have a great day,” said Kim Bondeson-Ciccarello of Liberty Bank.
Kymrie Zaslow, studio education coordinator at the museum, said the festival was a fantastic way to bring educational and fun activities in the community.
“This is a tremendous community partnership,” said Zaslow. “We all feel proud to be part of the Bristol community.”
Comments? Email lcapobianco@BristolObserver.com.
PHOTOS by MIKE CHAIKEN
PHOTOS by LISA CAPOBIANCO