By LISA CAPOBIANCO
Live music, skateboarding, craft vendors and more will once again dominate the West End during the 6th Annual Rockwell Park Summer Festival.
Presented by the West End Association, the free festival will kick off on Saturday, Aug. 19 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Rockwell Park. The event will feature a variety of local restaurants, specialty food trucks, crafts and local organizations as well as music and dance performances.
Dave Hamelin, the president of the West End Association, said some parts of the festival have expanded this year, including the Kid’s Zone presented by Imagine Nation Early Learning Center, Bridge Community Church, and the Bristol NAACP.
Another change is the Bristol Auto Club’s Car Show, which will take place closer to the park, so people can see it easier.
“We’re adding more events each year,” said Hamelin. “The festival just expands within itself.”
The festival also will return with new attractions, including Allstate Insurance’s distracted driving simulator—a stationary vehicle that offers a safe environment to learn about the effects of distracted driving. Equipped with virtual reality LED screens across the windshield, the simulator displays animated scenarios that drivers often encounter. As this year marks the 5th Annual Reality Tour for Allstate, Hartford, Conn. is one of 50 cities throughout the nation and Canada that the simulator will visit.
Other festival additions this year include an A.A.U. Basketball Tournament at both Brackett Park and Rockwell Park, which begins at 8 a.m. That afternoon, Biker’s Edge will sponsor a skateboard competition.
On the entertainment side, a pie-eating contest sponsored by Harvest Bakery will kick off at 3:14 p.m. with separate categories for adults and children. There also will be a free raffle drawing. Raffle participants are not required to be present when the winners are announced at the end of the day.
Throughout the day, local and regional music artists will perform on the main stage, while the gazebo will feature a variety of acoustic performances. Among this year’s music artists include the Bridge Community Church choir, Woof, Jason Gerrish, and G Rockwell—a 15-year-old guitar and banjo player.
Every year, the festival also attracts a large volunteer base.
Hamelin said the Kid’s Zone alone is expected to have 60 volunteers, and another two dozen volunteers help out the West End Association throughout the day.
“They step up to the plate,” said Hamelin.
Besides volunteers, many sponsors have stepped up to support the festival, including Bristol Hospital, Thomaston Savings Bank, Barnes Group Foundation, and others.
“They seem to have rallied around this as a major community event,” said Hamelin.
Formed in 2011, the West End Association is a nonprofit neighborhood group of merchants and residents dedicated to the “preservation, safety and overall quality of living in the city’s West End.”
Last year, nearly 10,000 visitors came to the festival, which showcases and celebrates Bristol’s West End community.
Hamelin said the festival has grown into something that people look forward to every year.
“We see the same people every year,” said Hamelin. “It brings that sense of community to the area.”
The 6th Annual Rockwell Park Summer Festival will take place on Saturday, Aug. 19, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission and parking are free, and free shuttle buses will run from the front parking lot of Dollar General to the main entrance of Rockwell Park.
Anyone interested in participating as a vendor for the festival can contact Hamelin at (860) 583-3292. For more information, visit the Facebook page, Rockwell Park Summer Festival.
Comments? Email lcapobianco@BristolObserver.com.