By LISA CAPOBIANCO
Sunny skies brought a crowd of folks to the Sixth Annual Rockwell Park Summer Festival, which kicked off last Saturday with expanded activities and live entertainment.
Presented by the West End Association, the free festival featured a variety of local restaurants, crafts and live music and dance performances all day at Rockwell Park.
Last year, nearly 10,000 visitors flocked to the festival, and this year was no different.
Dave Hamelin, president of the West End Association, called this year’s turnout “fantastic.”
“It’s amazing to get this many people together and see them all smiling,” said Hamelin, noting the great weather that returns for the festival every year.
The turnout of volunteers for the festival also was excellent, added Hamelin.
“Everybody steps up to this day because they know how important it is to Bristol,” 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.”
Supported by funds raised by the Association’s annual Taste of Bristol promotion, the festival showcases and celebrates the West End community through a variety of family-friendly activities, including the Kid’s Zone, which expanded this year.
From an obstacle course to face painting to other games, children who stopped by the Kid’s Zone dived into many interactive activities—as well as free ice cream.
The Kid’s Zone is a collaboration between Imagine Nation, A Museum Early Learning Center, Bridge Community Church, and the Bristol NAACP.
Sara Castle, assistant director of Imagine Nation, said the Kid’s Zone returns every year with more volunteers and vendors.
“We’re always looking to make it bigger and better every year,” said Castle.
The American Clock & Watch Museum returned to the Kid’s Zone again to make wristwatches with children and their families. The museum also brought its talking clock that teaches youngsters how to tell time.
“We’re a very family-friendly museum,” said Patti Philippon, executive director of the American Clock & Watch Museum. “Being part of this is really a great public forum for us to really get kids excited about coming and visiting.”
Other highlights of the festival included the Bristol Auto Club’s Car Show, a pie-eating contest sponsored by Harvest Bakery, and a free raffle drawing. Throughout the day, local and regional music artists took the stage to show off their talent, a variety of local organizations and businesses met visitors face-to-face.
Among the new attractions of this year’s festival were an A.A.U. Basketball Tournament and a skateboard competition sponsored by Biker’s Edge.
This year also marked the first time in which Allstate Insurance brought its 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.
Mary McDermott, a spokesperson for Allstate Insurance, said the festival was an opportunity to talk to families, teens and other people who may be a getting ready to get their driver’s license.
After taking a drive in the virtual reality vehicle, participants received a list of traffic citations that represented real infractions they committed.