By LISA CAPOBIANCO
The sun beamed on Rockwell Park last weekend, as thousands of folks celebrated Bristol’s West End community.
From live music to crafts and food to a skateboarding contest, the 5th Annual Rockwell Park Summer Festival returned last Saturday with a variety of festivities for the whole family. Hosted by the West End Association at Rockwell Park, the free festival brought in an estimated 10,000 visitors.
“It’s so nice to see all the kids and families,” said Dave Hamelin, president of the West End Association. “We envisioned this to be a block party.”
“Every year it just gets better and better,” added Tim Bobroske, vice president of the West End Association.
The all-day festival offered visitors a taste of Bristol through over a dozen food vendors. This year, the food tent doubled in size.
The event also featured 100 craft and non-profit vendors, as well as a Classic Car Show presented by Bristol Auto Club and a pie-eating contest sponsored by Harvest Bakery.
One booth that attracted a large turnout was planning consultant Milone & MacBroom, which is currently conducting a “master planning” process in partnership with the Bristol Development Authority as part of the downtown redevelopment. During the festival, many visitors shared their thoughts and ideas for the redevelopment of Centre Square—the former Depot Square and Bristol Centre Mall site.
Jake Williams of Milone & MacBroom said the community response for the second community visioning session was “fantastic.”
“We’ve been hearing a lot from people on what they are excited to see happen on site,” said Williams. “People are very realistic. A lot of what we’re hearing is ‘it’s time.’”
The festival also brought a large turnout of volunteers—over 100 of them who all flooded the park with their green t-shirts.
“The volunteer core has always been the nucleus of everything that we do,” said Hamelin.
“This is what Bristol is all about,” said Mayor Ken Cockayne, recognizing the West End Association and its countless volunteers. “Bristol is family.”
“My hats off to the West End Association,” added State Senator Henri Martin (R-Bristol).
On the entertainment side, the festival featured a variety of musical acts on the main stage and park gazebo, from the NAACP Chorus to the Cambodian Society Dancers to Get Up ‘N Dance. The event also gave visitors a chance to enter their names into a drawing for five pairs of Lake Quassy Amusement Park day passes donated by Bargain Book.
New this year was an expanded “Kid’s Zone” sponsored by Liberty Bank, Barnes Group, and Redman’s Trailer Sales, and presented by Imagine Nation, A Museum Early Learning Center, which teamed up with the Bristol chapter of the NAACP and Bristol Baptist Church to coproduce the children’s activities. Featuring 45 vendors, the Kid’s Zone served as an interactive area where children and their families play games while winning free prizes. This area of the festival also featured an obstacle course as well as a sound stage courtesy of the Child Evangelism Fellowship of Connecticut, Inc.
“We have a lot of nonprofits that are here donating their time,” said Doreen Stickney, developing & marketing director of Imagine Nation. “We’re always about leveraging and strengthening partnerships. This is a perfect venue to come together and work together.”
“It’s growing and growing because of the collaboration,” added Coral Richardson, director of Imagine Nation.
Kim Ciccarello of Liberty Bank said she was pleased to see the children’s smiling faces in the Kid’s Zone
“It really takes a lot of hands to make this work,” said Ciccarello. “It’s getting a lot of young kids involved too.”
Formed in 2011, 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.”
Since receiving its 501c (3) status earlier this year, the Association was able to pick up a few new sponsors for the festival. A number of local sponsors stepped up to support the festival, including Thomaston Savings Bank, Liberty Bank, Bristol Hospital, Wheeler Clinic, Minuteman Press, Bargain Book, the Bristol Republican Town Committee, ConnectiCare, Hartford Health Care Career Institute at THOCC, Barnes Group Foundation, By Carrier, Bobroske Construction and Riverview Apartments.
Festival sponsors can now receive a tax deduction because of the association’s non-profit status.
“Being a nonprofit helped us in our fundraising,” said Hamelin, adding how supportive the city of Bristol is every year for the festival.
By Carrier, Inc. was one of this year’s new sponsors. A family-owned business since 1971 and comprised of six brothers, By Carrier the company builds homes using top quality and cutting-edge products to ensure buyers get the highest standard of excellence.
Jake Carrier said he enjoys having his business be a sponsor of community events like the Rockwell Park Festival.
“We want to be a part of the community,” said Carrier. “It’s very nice to see people enjoy the day in Bristol.”
PHOTOS by MIKE CHAIKEN