Given second chance, Mum Festival springs to life

By LISA CAPOBIANCO

STAFF WRITER

Memorial Boulevard was buzzing with live entertainment, over 125 vendors, children’s activities and more during the 55th Annual Mum Festival last weekend.

The historic festival brought back many of its longtime traditions while adding new ones, kicking off last Thursday and Friday evening with a special carnival, food trucks and live music. The festival grounds then continued throughout the weekend with a car show, local businesses, civic groups and organizations as well as local artists.

Festival chair Mark Walerysiak mentioned how nonstop compliments came from vendors and the community at large, as the festival was re-energized this year. After the Mum Festival Committee disbanded in January, a new partnership emerged between Bristol All Heart, the marketing partnership of the Bristol Chamber of Commerce and the city of Bristol, and the Bristol Exchange Club to reload the festival.

The result of this collaboration was the “Mum Fest Squad,” a group of local volunteers that planned every detail of the festival since spring.

“There has been so much energy and effort,” said Walerysiak. “Our goal was to show that unity through exactly how we visioned and planned this event, to allow people who come here to think of Bristol in terms of a regional destination.”

“This is what I remember when I was a kid,” said Parade Chair Jack Ferraro, adding how a little over volunteers stepped up last Saturday.

“We’ve seen…grandparents, parents, grandchildren. They’re all here,” added volunteer Mickey Goldwasser.

Mayor Ken Cockayne, who ensured that the city continued its support for the Mum Festival, said the turnout of the festival was unbelievable.

“The Exchange Club, the chamber and all of the volunteers just did an incredible job,” said Cockayne.

From live performances by over 15 bands to an adult beverage garden to pumpkin painting and a STEM mobile, the multi-day event featured a variety of programs and activities for folks of all ages. This year, the “Touch-A-Truck” exhibit returned with a twist, expanding into one that allowed children and families to explore fire trucks, law enforcement vehicles, bulldozers, agricultural machinery and antique military vehicles well as a Life Star helicopter.

The festival also continued the Mum Parade, featuring UConn’s Jonathan The Husky as its marshal as well as the renowned UConn marching band and UConn’s cheerleaders and dance team.  Operated by the Bristol Exchange Club for many years, the parade has served as the focal point of the Mum Festival for 55 years. When news broke of the Mum Festival Committee disbanding, the Exchange Club committed to continue the parade even if the festival would not continue.

West Bristol School students who are members of Kids in the Middle, a community initiative of the United Way of West Central Connecticut that provides opportunities for middle school students to get involved with meaningful programs and activities, felt excited to participate in the parade. They also showed enthusiasm for the reloaded festival, which allowed them to spread the word about KIM to those who visited their booth.

“It’s a lot of fun,” said Emily King, an eighth grader who has been a member of KIM for three years now. “This is one to remember.”

“It’s huge,” added eighth grader Spencer Roucoulet.

Tymia Morris, who has attended the Mum Festival throughout her childhood, also was impressed.

“It’s really big this year,” said Morris, who has been a member of KIM for the past three years.  “Everyone is having fun.”

Besides the programs and activities, the setup was another aspect of the festival that the Mum Fest Squad received positive feedback on. The athletic fields of the former Memorial Boulevard School brought many features of the festival together in one location, including the performers, the vendors and food trucks.

“We wanted to centralize everything,” said Walerysiak. “This is one event, and we wanted to show that unity through how we designed it.”

PHOTOS of MUM FESTIVAL EVENTS by MIKE CHAIKEN

PHOTOS of MUM FESTIVAL PARADE by CAT BOYCE