On June 1 and 2, 2019, the annual Celebrate! West Hartford festival provided fun for the whole family and displayed so much of what West Hartford has to offer.
By Lauren Cohen. Photos by Hunter Marotto
This weekend, the 33rd annual Celebrate! West Hartford did just that – celebrated this town that we love.
With activities ranging from an art show to live music from the schools in town, food vendors, volunteer booths, a record-breaking 5K, and of course carnival games and rides, families flooded the Center on both Saturday and Sunday for an afternoon in the sun.
In its early years, Celebrate! West Hartford was a one-day event, but now stretches for two days, Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m., overflowing on the grounds of West Hartford Town Hall.
The sun was shining Saturday morning when eager West Hartford residents made their way down to the Center for another year of our beloved town fair. Smells of kettle corn wafted through the air and the chatter of excited kids floated down to the Town Hall parking lot, where the carnival rides and games were set up.
The same excitement was in the voices of citizens roaming the craft vendor tents, where artists from throughout the region were selling their original work. The fun didn’t stop there; it spread into Sunday afternoon when even more people attended, and the sun came out just in time for many to visit for the second or even third time, while the threat of storms never materialized.
From professional photographs of West Hartford’s schools to stills of LaSalle Road to portraits of the flourishing Elizabeth Park, the abundance of West Hartford-inspired artwork for sale this weekend was enough to make any resident drool.
This year’s art show featured over 165 artisans from Connecticut and neighboring states. Each tent overflowed with dazzling pieces of art, photographs, and apparel, each complete with the artisan’s signature touch.
Trish Kozub, a jewelry vendor from Cape Cod, said she is drawn back to Celebrate! West Hartford every year because she loves “how it’s very well curated, with really wonderful artisans here” that “value handmade.”
Kozub also noted that West Hartford is a “wonderful town”, and she enjoys having fun with her friends here at night. Kozub was selling a plethora of handmade jewelry this weekend, including collections of vintage art deco jewelry that she combines with fine gemstones to create one-of-a-kind classic pieces.
She mentioned she has “built up a really nice clientele here,” and since she’s only here once a year for the fair and art show, she finds that the same customers keep coming back to see her. This was proven true when a pair of women came back and caught up with Kozub, animatedly chatting about their kids and her new jewels for sale.
Jewelry was just one of the items on the long list of original art for sale this weekend at the fair. Another eye-catching vendor was the Artists for World Peace organization, and they had a great cause to boot. With a wall of bright, colorful canvases covering their tent at Celebrate!, the Artists for World Peace tent boasted more than just their beautiful art. They had art made by artists in all 50 states for sale this weekend, and the proceeds from each piece went to a program called Native Eyes, which provides free eye clinics, exams, glasses, and even cataract surgery for Native Americans who do not otherwise have access to those resources. Just this week, the organization sent 40 of their members to the Rosebud Reservation, where they provided free eye care to residents there.
Phyllis Sheridan is one of the members of the organization’s Council of Elders, a board of all women that runs the organization, modeled after traditional Native American Councils. In addition to the “crucial” work they do providing eye care, Sheridan explained that the Artists for World Peace also promote “interfaith dialogues in their community to promote peace and understanding.”
This group was just one of many amazing vendors that set-up on the Town Hall lawn this weekend, to celebrate our town and promote the goodness that comes from the hearts of so many West Hartford residents.
The Arts and Crafts Show wasn’t the only pull to visit Celebrate! to kick off the month of June. Classic carnival rides whizzed around as kids ran from ride to ride, parents trailing behind munching on kettle corn and sipping on fresh-squeezed lemonade.
Food vendors sold a variety of healthy (and some not-so-healthy, but delicious nonetheless) options. Attendees could mill around with their snacks to listen to school music groups on stage or pay a visit to the many tents showcasing all that West Hartford’s organizations have to offer.
While the main part of the festival didn’t begin until noon on Sunday, the morning hours were filled with the annual Celebrate! Road Races – a kids fun run and 5K. More than a thousand people participated in the races, and a new course record was set by West Hartford native and Hall High School graduate Ari Klau, 22, who crossed the finish line in 14.42. His former Hall classmate Grant O’Connor was right behind, finishing in 14:51.
Marisa Jones, 37, of Avon was the first female finisher in 17:15. For complete results click here.
Overall, an excellent weekend was had in West Hartford by people of all ages. Next year’s weather will hopefully be just as good – and organizers are already looking forward to it!
Like what you see here? Click here to subscribe to We-Ha’s newsletter so you’ll always be in the know about what’s happening in West Hartford!