Here’s a guide to what you need to know about the 33rd Annual Celebrate! West Hartford, the town’s signature festival, which will take place on Saturday and Sunday, June 1 and 2, 2019.
By Ronni Newton
Celebrate! West Hartford has been a not-to-be-missed event in the region since 1987, and has grown from a small town fair to what is now a two-day festival that includes something for everyone.
Now in its 33rd year, Celebrate! West Hartford will be held on Saturday, June 1, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday, June 2, from noon to 6 p.m.
When it began, Celebrate! was a one-day event, but it has now evolved into an award-winning festival that regularly attracted attracts more than 40,000 people during the course of its two-day run – town residents, people from throughout Connecticut, and tourists who come to West Hartford specifically to enjoy the great food, fun, music, crafts, and exhibits of civic and community resources that the festival has to offer.
“We’re delighted that our signature event attracts so many West Hartford residents, as well as visitors from afar,” Event Director Linda Geisler said. “The event represents true community and celebrates what West Hartford is all about: the families, the arts, the music, the restaurants, the businesses and the non-profits that make our town such a wonderful place to live, work, play and visit.”
“Celebrate encourages residents of all ages and interests to come together to celebrate the quality of life offered in West Hartford,” Steering Committee Chair Mary Alexander said.
Each year the event has something new and different, so even if you have attended in the past, you’re guaranteed to find something to spark your interest.
You can even enter a raffle at this year’s event to win tickets to Cirque du Soleil’s LUZIA, which will return to Hartford from June 19-July 21. (For more information about Cirque du Soleil, visit www.cirquedusoleil.com.)
Here’s a guide, including maps of the site (in PDF form below), to what you can expect to find at this year’s Celebrate! West Hartford.
Celebrate! West Hartford is open to the public and is held rain or shine. There is no admission charge and ample parking is available. More information can be found at www.celebratewesthartford.com.
Juried Arts & Crafts Show
Celebrate! West Hartford has developed a national reputation, and master artists and crafters come to Celebrate! West Hartford from all over the country.
This year’s show will feature the original works of more than 165 master artists and crafters from all over the country, offering shoppers a diverse variety of fine jewelry, pottery, woodwork, sculpture, textiles, glasswork, art, apparel, and more that can be purchased directly from their creators.
“The arts and crafts show has become one of the top showcases in New England for the exhibition and sale of highly original arts and crafts created both by regional artisans and those who travel great distances to participate, said Arts and Crafts Show Director Barbara Belmont.
The mix of exhibitors this year includes “a wonderful mix of exhibitors who have been with us many years and have developed a strong following, and a great group of new exhibitors who are bringing with them interesting and diverse works,” Belmont said.
“We are delighted to have so many West Hartford-ites showing their one-of-a-kind, hand crafted items with us this year,” aded Belmont. West Hartford artists and crafters participating this year include:
- Virginia Kemp, “The Blue Twig”: Local photography, Booth #1
- Stefanie Marco Lantz, “Kindspin Design”: Fanciful sculpture/art, Booth #2
- Deena Samberg-Shefsky, “DDJ Designs”: Tie-dyed clothing, Booth #11
- Elizabeth Hanlon, “Eliza DoLittleToday Photography”: Digital Photography, Booth#14
- Kaitlin Lennon, “The Furnace Prints”: Letterpress Stationary, Booth #30
- Forrest Doyle, “Wood by Forrest”: Artistic Cheeseboards 60
- John Balboni, “JMK Woodworking”: Granite & Wood Products, Booth #75
- Armen Manukyan, “ Armrny Custom Jewelry Design”: Fine and Fashion Jewelry,Booth #68
- Tracy Weed, “The Tiny Wren”: Romantic Jewelry, Booth #122
- Anna Hayami, “Anniemade Art”: Block Prints/Apparel, Booth #133
- Rachel Shuler, “Mountain Tree Studios”: Mixed Media Jewelry, Booth #147
“It’s a great way for them to get additional local notice, and for new clientele to experience their work firsthand,” Belmont said.
Amica Insurance, which is sponsoring this year’s Arts and Crafts show, will also welcome “budding artists” to their coloring zone in booth No. 311-312 to decorate a free reusable shopping bag.
Diamond sponsor Tillamook, from Tillamook, OR, is a 100-year-old farmer-owned dairy co-op with a mission of connecting farmers and food lovers through better-made dairy products. They will be offering samples of their award-winning ice cream and delicious cheese in booths No. 321-322.
The Arts and Crafts show will be open on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 6 p.m. Admission is free. Programs listing the artists and crafters, their works and their locations will be available at Information Booth No. 1 on South Main Street.
Calories don’t count at festivals.
Even if you don’t start out hungry, the smells coming from the 25 food vendors at Celebrate! West Hartford will get your taste buds excited. A selection of yummy dishes range from festival favorites like Grandpa’s Kettle Korn, to healthy options, to a variety of desserts and other sweet treats.
Rotary Club will be back grilling hot dogs and hamburgers, as will some other standbys like Delicacy Catering and Harry’s Bishops Corner.
West Hartford’s Blue Elephant Trail will return with their delicious Pad Thai and other dishes, as will local favorites Hartford Baking Company and NALA’s Kitchen.
Come for lunch, stay for dinner. There are more than 100 menu choices in the food court, as well as food like soft serve ice cream and fried dough available within the carnival area!
Food vendors are:
- Banh Meee – Pork Banh Mi, Chicken Wings; Vietnamese Eggrolls; Jimmy Dean Dog
- Ben & Jerry’s Green Monster Cones – Ice Cream, Yogurt, Sorbet, Cups & Cones
- Blue Elephant Trail – Spring Rolls, Chicken Satay, Pad Thai, Lettuce Wraps
- Chompers – Fried Two-Bite Balls: Bacon Cheeseburger, Chicken Parm, Taco
- Delicacy Catering – Pirogies, Smoked Brisket, Pulled Pork, Mac & Cheese, Cole Slaw
- F&W Caterers – Sausage & Cheese Steak, Greek Gyro, Chicken Fingers, Corn Dogs
- Flavors – Caribbean BBQ or Jerk Chicken or Pork, Fried Plantains, Tropical Juices
- Good Ole Boys Lemonade – Fresh Squeezed Drinks: Lemonade, Limeade, Strawberry and Cherry
- Grandpa’s Kettle Korn – Kettle Korn
- Greater Hartford Host Lions Club – French Fries and Assorted Drinks
- Harry’s Bishops Corner – Pizza Slices and Drinks
- Hartford Baking Company – Pretzels, Pastries, Hot and Iced Coffee
- Hartford Saengerbund – Grilled Bratwursts
- J’s Crab Shack – Lobster Roll, Sweet Potato Waffle Fries, Shrimp Cocktail
- Lorenzo’s Italian Ice – Strawberry and Lemon Italian Ice
- Maui Wowi Hawaiian Smoothies & Coffees – Fruit and Coffee Smoothies
- NALA’s Kitchen – Chicken Chili, Meatballs, Vegetarian Taco Bowl, Carrot Slaw
- Rotary Club of West Hartford – Hot Dogs, Hamburgers, Chips, Cookies
- St. George Armenian Church- Hummus, Stuffed Grapeleaves, Tabuleh, Blinz
- Sweet Chili – Chicken Teriyaki, Lo Mein, Fried Rice, Mango and Sticky Rice, Bubble Tea
- The Kitchen @ Futures Inc. – Cookies, Granola, Veggie Flatbread, Iced Tea
- Toasted – Create your own “toasted” sandwich, cookies
- Vinci’s Concessions – Fried dough, soda, water
- World’s Best Sundae – Soft ice cream, cappuccino
- Yoshi Kosher Catering – Falafel, hummus, pita, spring rolls
Carnival Rides and Games – plus some fun freebies
Maybe this part should have come before the section about food, but for many young and young-at-heart, the carnival rides are the best part of Celebrate West Hartford.
The Celebrate Amusement Park includes rides that range from the tame (the ever-popular kiddie cars and swirling tubs) to rides that spin and tilt and whirl for the thrill-seekers and daredevils. The traditional ferris wheel provides riders of all ages with a great vista of the Greater Hartford area.
Credit cards will be accepted for purchase of ride tickets.
A favorite with kids and adults, the horse-drawn trolley, sponsored by RE/MAX Premier REALTORS of West Hartford, will offer rides around the site. The trolley begins and ends at the Town Center Garage driveway on South Main Street.
Young children will enjoy the petting zoo – where they can visit African Pygmy/Nigerian Dwarf Goats, Jacob 4/2 Horned Sheep, baby doll sheep, alpacas, and llamas – some of which have appeared in plays, shows, and movies.
And speaking of goats, the Yard Goats team mascots – Chompers and Chew Chew – will also be at Celebrate! West Hartford at the Yard Goats booth for photo ops. The booth will also include a blow-up pitching target for people to test their skills.
West Hartford Youth Football will also have a target for throwing practice, and the Hartford Marathon Foundation will bring back corn hole.
Folks of all ages can enjoy the chance to try for a hole-in-one at West Hartford’s own 9-hole mini golf course. Each hole of the course replicates a well-known landmark such as the West Hartford Town Hall, the First Church Congregational, Noah Webster House, the Westmoor Park Barn, and a West Hartford fire truck.
The Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society will offer Celebrate! West Hartford visitors a chance to engage in a game of Scrabble – on their giant Scrabble board!
Autism Families CONNECTicut will be back this year with a Sensory Friendly Zone for those on the autism spectrum, or anyone needing a sensory-friendly environment or break from the hustle and bustle of the event. Clinicians and volunteers will be there to suggest a variety of sensory activities that are the cornerstones of their programs, including an area for movement, calming, tactile, and focus.
Hydration is important, and free to bring your own water bottle which can be refilled at the MDC water truck that will be parked on Burr Street, offering free water to everyone. It’s also a good option for a quick face wash for your kids – or yourself.
Many are focused on living a healthy lifestyle – which includes bicycling, and those who choose to cycle to Celebrate! West Hartford can find secure bicycle parking on Burr Street courtesy of Bike West Hartford. There will be no fee, but donations will be welcomed. For more information on Bike West Hartford, visit www.bikewesthartford.org.
Thanks to the West Hartford Firefighters Association who will be back providing first aid for anyone needing medical care. If emergency assistance is required, ask a staff person at any of the three Information Booths to summon help.
Non-Profit and Business Exhibitors
Dozens of non-profits and other businesses have reserved tent space at Celebrate! West Hartford once again this year. Visitors to the event can stop by the to learn more about the organizations.
There are plenty of free activities at the sponsor booths as well, ranging from coloring pages and puzzles, raffles, martial arts challenges, games to win prizes, and loads of give-aways.
The booths are a great vehicle for clubs and other local organizations to engage the community and provide education about the wide range of services available.
“The event is a great vehicle for community engagement. People enjoy learnng about the wide range of services available to them through non-profit or business exhibitors,” said Geisler. “At the same time, they reconnect with friends from all over town.”
The locations of all the activities can be found in the PDF below of the Celebrate! West Hartford program and copies will also be available at the Information Booths both days of the festival.
West Hartford’s Department of Leisure Services is once again offering the “Step Up to Health” Challenge – with a variety of sponsors at designated booths participating with free, fun, physical activities and a prize to those who complete the challenge.
“This challenge is part of the department’s overall ‘Step Up to Health’ initiative designed to encourage people of all ages to participate in healthy physical activities,” said Leisure Services Manager Marc Blanchard.
A map, which will be available all weekend at the Leisure Services tent on the steps of Town Hall, provides a listing of the participating “healthy partner” booths.
Meet and Greet with Town Manager, Police Chief, and Fire Chief
“I’m looking forward to our 33rd annual Celebrate! West Hartford event,” said Town Manager Matt Hart. “Celebrate provides a wonderful opportunity for residents of all ages and backgrounds to have great fun, learn more about our community and its services, while experiencing the camaraderie of our dynamic population. Police Chief Vernon Riddick, Fire Chief Greg Priest, and I will be greeting people from 2 to 3 p.m. both days. We’ll be by the flagpole. Stop by and have a chat!”
Music is an important part of Celebrate! West Hartford, and the main stage will feature a variety of entertainment throughout the two-day festival.
On Saturday, the show mobile stage will feature a variety of ensembles from West Hartford’s schools, beginning at 10:30 a.m. and lasting through 6 p.m. Sunday’s performers include several professional groups offering a wide variety of musical styles. (Descriptions courtesy of Celebrate! West Hartford.)
Saturday, June 1
- 10:30-11:15 a.m.: Bristow Middle School Jazz Band
- 11:25 a.m.-12:10 p.m.: King Philip Middle School Jazz Band
- 12:20-12:55 p.m.: Hall High School Jazz Band
- 1-1:45 p.m.: Hall High School Concert Jazz Band
- 1:55-2:40 p.m.: Sedgwick Middle School Jazz Band
- 2:50-3:50 p.m.: Northwest Catholic Big Band & Jazz Singers
- 4-5:20 p.m.: Conard High School Jazz Band & Concert Jazz Band
- 5:25 p.m.: Cirque Du Soleil – LUZIA Raffle Drawing
- 5:30-6 p.m.: Conard High School Be S#arp
There will also be dancing demonstrations and mini-lessons offered throughout the day courtesy of Arthur Murray Dance Studios.
Sunday, June 2
- Noon-1 p.m.: GRaviToNiK, a five-piece, West Hartford-based, youth rock band has been jamming together since 2014, playing in large theater settings, to restaurants/clubs and private parties. Trained as jazz-trained musicians, the group leans toward modern rock as an outlet for fun and creativity. Gigs include Hartford’s Black Eyed Sally’s, Simsbury’s Old Well Tavern, The Bing Art Center in Springfield and The Bitter End in NY’s Greenwich Village. For more information visit Facebook.com/GravitonikBand.
- 1:30 p.m.: Cirque Du Soleil – LUZIA Raffle Drawing
- 1:30-4 p.m.: Shaded Soul Band is one of the top R&B bands based in Connecticut. They perform throughout New England at weddings, corporate events, outdoor concerts and other venues where it’s dance time. A multi-award winning band, there repertoire includes R & B, Motown, Funk Soul, Jazz, Reggae, Swing, Rock, Pop, Disco, and Top 40. Celebrate! West Hartford is especially delighted to welcome these accomplished local musicians to our stage. Several members of Shaded Soul Band hail from the Hartford area and were educated at institutions including the Hartford Conservatory of Music, the Hartt School of Music and the University of Connecticut. Find out more at ShadedSoulBand.com.
- 4:25 p.m.: Cirque Du Soleil – LUZIA Raffle Drawing
- 4:30-6 p.m.: White-Eyed Lizard Band has been entertaining with Caribbean Steel Drum Island music at concerts in parks, weddings, country clubs, yacht clubs, colleges, universities, birthdays, and dining and drinking establishments since 2003. They are best known for their blend of warm, friendly flavor of entertainment with internationally acclaimed top notch musicianship. Look them up at WhiteEyedLizardBand.com.
Sunday’s musical entertainment is presented by Mohegan Sun. Dancing demonstrations and mini-lessons will be offered throughout the day by Arthur Murray Dance Studios
Studies continue to find that hitting the road improves your health and well-being, and rain or shine, and more than 1,000 runners are expected to participate in the Celebrate! West Hartford 5K Road Race, scheduled for Sunday, June 2. New this year is an 8:30 a.m. start time for the 5K. The 5K is open to runners and walkers ages 6 and up.
Before the 5K, the 10th annual Kids Fun Run for kids 10 and under will take place on Sunday at 8 a.m. (new time this year), with kids ages 10 and under running a half-mile course on Burr Street. Medals will be awarded to all finishers.
There are 10 competitive age divisions for both men and women in the 5K. Prizes valued at $30, $25 and $20 will be awarded to the first, second, and third place finishers respectively in each division. Any 5K registrant can enter a random drawing with a variety of prizes, including 10 pairs of tickets to Cirque du Soleil – LUZIA.
Registration will also be available along with packet pick-up at Fleet Feet Sports, 1003 Farmington Ave., West Hartford, on Friday, May 31, from 3-6 p.m. and Saturday, June 1, from 9 a.m.-noon.
Race-day registration and packet pick-up is also available, beginning at 7 a.m. in the Festival Dining Tent that will be located in the Town Hall Parking lot at 50 South Main St. Runners are encouraged to arrive with plenty of time, and free race-day parking is available in Isham Garage, 17 Isham Rd. A post-race reception and awards ceremony will also take place in the Festival Dining Tent.
Proceeds from the race will benefit West Hartford’s Leisure Services Scholarship Fund, which subsidizes summer camp tuition, swimming lessons, and other year-round recreational programs for children in need.
General Information, including Parking, Traffic, and Pets
Celebrate West Hartford joined Facebook in 2014, and key information as well as fun photos will be posted both in advance and throughout the Celebrate weekend. To find Celebrate on Facebook, click here. Celebrate West Hartford is also on Twitter with the handle @CelebrateWH and on Instagram (@celebrateweha). Use the hashtag #CelebrateWH with your tweets and photos to keep up with the latest news and information from the 33rd annual Celebrate! West Hartford event.
The Town of West Hartford and Celebrate West Hartford continue to promote recycling event-wide. Refuse and recycling barrels are available in pairs throughout the event to make recycling an easy choice. Blue barrels clearly identified as recycling receptacles can be used for all single stream recycling items in addition to the typically-recycled bottles and cans. West Hartford continues to be a leader in recycling in Connecticut.
Celebrate West Hartford is open to the public and is held rain or shine. There is no admission charge and ample free parking is available on neighborhood streets and in the Isham Garage (17 Isham Rd.). Discounted parking will be available in the Town Center Garage at 29 South Main St.
Handicapped parking will be available on Burr Street, and will be monitored by staff.
Due to the large number of people expected to attend Celebrate! West Hartford, event organizers are encouraging through-traffic to avoid the center of town. People coming to the event are asked to consider walking, biking (free bike park on Burr Street), using the bus, or carpooling are suggested.
Burr Street will be closed to vehicular traffic on both Saturday and Sunday. On Sunday, Raymond Road will be closed between 7:45 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. for the road races.
One final note about your four-legged friends: Although we love dogs of all shapes, colors, and sizes in West Hartford, organizers of Celebrate ask that you please leave them at home.
“Public events are tough on dogs: the hot asphalt (which can cause scalded paws); the hordes of people towering above them; the multiple of smells from the food court, the music and shrieks of delight from the children enjoying the rides, all combine to form an anxiety-producing, sensory overload for your dog,” said Animal Control Officer Karen Jones.
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