By LISA CAPOBIANCO
The 56th Annual Mum Festival will take over the entire Memorial Boulevard this fall with more food vendors, more children’s activities and more entertainment.
With a theme of “Home Is Where the Heart Is,” the four-day festival is set to kick off on Thursday, Sept. 21, and will continue through Sunday, Sept. 24.
Among the festivities planned on the first day include a carnival, music, a fireworks show and an art and jazz gala from 5 to 9 p.m. The art and jazz gala is a new feature of the festival, which will feature an 18-piece jazz band and local artists.
Another addition to the festival is an outdoor movie night, which will be presented by the Witch’s Dungeon Classic Movie Museum on Friday, Sept. 22. The carnival and live music will continue on the second day of the festival, which runs from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Besides the carnival and live music, a variety of food trucks will dominate all four days of the festival. To date, 27 vendors have signed up to sell their food to hungry festival goers, and an extra sit-down area will be available by the main stage.
This year, the beer and wine garden will return, but this time with a more “restaurant-style” atmosphere.
Mum Festival Committee members said Bristol’s historic event has overall expanded in footprint this year.
“We are now using the entire boulevard for the event,” said Mum Festival Chair Jack Ferraro.
As the committee continues finalizing all the moving parts of the festival, volunteers like Shannen Tack feel excited to see everything come together.
This year, Tack has taken on a more active role as the Mum Festival Marking Committee Chair.
“It’s a really cool feeling,” said Tack, noting the passion that shines among committee members.
Last year, the 55th Annual Mum Festival was buzzing with over 130 vendors, live entertainment and family-friendly activities on Memorial Boulevard, where thou-sands of visitors came through.
With support from the city and the community at large, a group of local volunteers stepped up to reload the 55th Annual Mum Festival after the initial Mum Festival Committee disbanded in early 2016.
“We were really surprised about how many people came out,” said Ferraro, adding how the event brought in businesses.
“The community has spoken loud and clear—they love this kind of event,” said Mickey Goldwasser, who serves on the Mum Festival Marketing Committee. “There’s something for everybody.”
This year, the festival grounds are expected to explode again on Saturday, Sept. 23 and Sunday, Sept. 24. To date, over 90 vendors have signed up for the festival. The third day of the festival also includes expanded children’s activities and a car show hosted by the Bristol Auto Club.
“It’s a vendor extravaganza,” said Ferraro.
Although the festival will have new additions this year, the event also will keep existing Mum traditions—like the Mum Parade. Operated by the Bristol Exchange Club, the parade has become a focal point of the festival. This year, Bristol native and WVTM News anchor Brittany Decker is the Grand Marshal of the parade, which will kick off at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 24.
One part of the festival that will change, however, is enhanced transportation. During the event, people can go on a horse and carriage ride or a trackless train to make their way to the Boulevard.
“We’re trying to keep all the families in mind,” said Ferraro.
Comprised of over a dozen volunteers from Bristol and other surrounding towns, the Mum Festival Committee also is keeping sponsors in mind this year. The committee has
organized a hospitality tent to thank local businesses and organizations that have stepped up as sponsors. This year, Radio 104. 1 is a presenting sponsor.
“There’s businesses stepping up for us that we’re really grateful for,” said Ferraro.
As sponsorships are still being accepted, so are volunteers and donations. Last year, the festival brought many volunteers of all ages, including Bristol students.
“There’s a lot of moving parts, but we can’t do it without support from the community,” said Goldwasser.
Although the festival itself is planned for September, a season of “Mum” events will take place throughout the fall, as more Bristol organizations have stepped up to take part in the celebration. Team Bristol will put on the annual Bristol Stomp in early October and Nutmeg Performing Arts Studio will produce the Miss Mum pageant. The Mum-A-Thon Road Race also is scheduled for Sunday, Oct. 22 to benefit the Veterans Strong Community Center.
“We wanted to get other organizations involved,” said Ferraro, adding how the Mum season of events allow for cross-promotion between local organizations.
“It really speaks to what Bristol is about,” added Goldwasser.
For more information about the 56th Annual Mum Festival, visit bristolmumfestival.com/.