BRISTOL – After a two-year break, the Rockwell Park Summer Festival returned Saturday to serve as a celebration of Bristol communities, and especially the West End, with record exhibitors filling the area.
“It’s a lot of work and preparation and hoping that the weather cooperates, which it did,” said festival organizer and West End Association Vice President Jesse Jablon. “Now that all the set up is done and people can enjoy it, it becomes more enjoyable for us. We have a record number of booths, 155 spaces today.”
Jablon lauded the return of the Kid Zone because it offered a variety of free games and activities for area families such as cornhole or mini-golf.
“We do this for the community,” said the vice president. “We don’t make a profit. This is strictly about showcasing the park and community and having a fun family event for kids. We're a unique festival and our Kid Zone is one of our claims to being different.”
With a variety of food spaces, activities, civic-organizations looking to educate residents and music played throughout the day, the Rockwell Park Summer Festival is one of Bristol’s largest celebrations.
Scott Collins, of the Connecticut Society of Santas and New England Santa Society, held a holiday-themed food drive during the festival.
“We have Foodshare that we’ll be donating to and I believe the Grace Foodbank, so they’ll take our donations today,” he said. “I’ve been a professional Santa for five years. I started working at the Santa Express in Thomaston.”
He said representing the seasonal icon of giving had given him a lot of joy.
Adam Underwood’s daughter and Barbara Underwood’s granddaughter was slated to dance during the festival with the Bristol-based Get Up and Dance.
“It brings the community together,” said Barbara of events like the festival. “There’s so many more booths this year.”
Adam noted the festival had grown quite a bit since his first festival in 2017.
Patricia Loosamore said she had attended festivals in years past and her favorite attraction of the day was a vendor that made art from sea glass.
Matt Norton of the Bristol Agape House Homeless Outreach noted having a presence at events like the Rockwell Park Summer Festival was an important part of reaching area residents for nonprofit organizations.
“This is the only way communities can know what’s going on other than social media. You’re going out and seeing people face-to-face. You’re seeing those that you see on social media and are finding local resources you wouldn’t necessarily know about all in one place,” he said.