By LISA CAPOBIANCO
Memorial Boulevard was buzzing last weekend with over 150 vendors, expanded children’s activities and live entertainment during the 56th Annual Mum Festival.
With a theme of “Home Is Where The Heart Is,” the four-day event kicked off on Thursday, Sept. 21 with a ribbon cutting, followed by the art and jazz gala. The first night of the festival ended with a fireworks show.
Shannen Tack, marketing chair of the Mum Festival Committee, said the festival kicked off with a great turnout, and the fireworks show went off “without a hitch.”
“We had great drone footage of the fireworks show, so we’re excited about that,” said Tack.
“It’s Bristol celebrating Bristol,” said Mum Festival Committee volunteer Mickey Goldwasser, adding how the outdoor movie night on Friday also brought a good crowd.
“We market Bristol as the All Heart city, and this is the perfect example of it.”
From local businesses to civic organizations to crafters, the boulevard turned into a full vendor blowout during the festival last Saturday, as Mother Nature brought sunny skies and 80-degree temperatures.
While festival-goers dived into a variety of food and beverages, hours of live performances took over the main stage. This year’s Hometown Hero, Bristol Press columnist Bob Montgomery, also appeared on the main stage where he received a citation from the city.
“We prided on a community, family-friendly-focused event, and that’s what we have this year—something for everyone,” said Goldwasser, adding how the festival garnered lot of support from volunteers.
When the clock struck noon, Yale Healthcare’s SkyHealth medical helicopter landed on the loading dock for the Touch-A-Vehicle program, which appealed to children and adults.
Flight Paramedic Larry Scott was on site with a registered nurse and pilot for SkyHealth, which flies on both Long Island and Connecticut.
“Hopefully, it reassures that there is this capability that we have in the area,” said Scott, adding how children enjoyed having their pictures taken inside SkyHealth. “We have an aircraft that can provide medical services to regional hospitals and special centers.”
This year, the Touch-A-Vehicle program returned with over two dozen attractions, including a Tilcon Connecticut quarry truck, the Bristol Fire Department fire engine and a Bristol Hospital ambulance truck.
While taking a tour inside the ambulance, children took turns playing with the sirens.
“It shows kids exactly what we do,” said Shawn McCormick, a Bristol Hospital paramedic.
Besides vehicles, children and their families had a chance to sit on a carousel that was recently featured in the film, “Rebel in the Rye.” George Marenna Jr., owner of Marenna Amusements, brought his carousel to the carnival. A drama that focuses on “Catcher in the Rye” author J.D. Salinger as a young writer in the 1930’s, the new movie features Marenna operating his carousel.
Marenna, who had a one-liner in the film, was excited to have his carousel become a memory for festival goers—on and off the big screen.
“We’re in the amusement business, but we’re also providing a piece of education,’” said Marenna, adding that the film was “an opportunity of a lifetime.”
Throughout the day, vendors like “Pickles by Staff,” showcased their products to festival goers. A sixth grade teacher at West Bristol School, Jason Stafford brought his assortment of pickle creations to the festival for the first time.
Whether folks were on the lookout for a tasty dill pickle or a whole hot one, Stafford had a jar for every pickle aficionado.
“This is only my second festival,” said Stafford, adding how he enjoyed bumping into community members he knew at the festival.
While Stafford’s booth sparked curiosity among folks, Liberty Baptist Church in Bristol gave festival goers a chance to give back through its candy apple booth. The goal was to raise money for victims of Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma through the Samaritan’s Purse Disaster Relief, a nondenominational evangelical Christian organization that provides emergency aid to victims of all kinds of natural disasters nationwide.
Church member Gabrielle Devoe said the Mum Festival was a great way to get involved with the Bristol community while recognizing others who have lost just about everything.
“So many people locally don’t know what to do,” said Devoe. “We’re thankful for whatever we’re able to give.”
“So many people are hurting, even people who are in the community,” added church member Kim Grzybowski, who met a woman who was displaced from Florida.
Comments? Email lcapobianco@BristolObserver.com.