Here’s what you need to know about the 31st Annual Celebrate! West Hartford, the town’s signature festival, which will take place on Saturday and Sunday, June 10 and 11, 2017.
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 31st year, Celebrate! West Hartford will be held on Saturday, June 10, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday, June 11, from noon to 6 p.m.
Last year’s event attracted more than 30,000 people during the course of its two-day run – town residents, people from throughout Connecticut, and tourists who come to West Hartford to enjoy the great food, fun, music, crafts, and exhibits of civic and community resources that the festival has to offer.
As Committee Chair Mary Alexander put it, “Celebrate encourages visitors of all ages and interests to come together to celebrate the quality of life offered in West Hartford.”
Event Director Linda Geisler said that even if you have been to Celebrate! West Hartford in past years, you are guaranteed to find something new and different at this year’s festival.
“Celebrate! is the quintessential West Hartford event – it is multi-generational, cross-cultural, and celebrates the arts, local businesses and non-profit organizations. It is a great opportunity to run into old West Hartford friends and to welcome folks from around the state.,” Geisler said. “The committee and staff strive to make it a first-rate festival that the whole family can look forward to year-after-year.”
Here’s a guide, including maps of the site, to what you can expect to find at this year’s Celebrate! West Hartford.
Juried Arts & Crafts Show
After 31 years, Celebrate West Hartford has developed a national reputation as one of the top 200 arts and crafts shows, and master artists and crafters come to Celebrate! West Hartford from all over the country. Arts and crafts show supervisor Barbara Belmont works hard to ensure a wide variety of offerings and said that all major craft categories are represented among the 161 artisans who are part of this year’s show.
“One of the things we’re very proud of is that of those 161 vendors, 47 of them are new to the event,” Geisler said. “That’s important because the jury tries to keep the show fresh.”
Many of the crowd favorites continue to return, but at the same time there is great, fresh new talent, Geisler said.
Some of the new – and local – artisans include Armeny, a West Hartford-based jeweler whose designs are one-of-a-kind.
West Hartford resident Elizabeth McVerry Hanlon, owner of ElizaDoLittleToday Photography, will be showcasing her unique digital photography, available in a wide variety of mediums ranging from framed prints, to canvases, to metal, to gift cards.
Tracy Weed, also a West Hartford resident, is also new to the arts and craft show this year. Through her business, The Tiny Wren, Weed creates “romantic, handmade, and vintage jewelry and accessories.”
Another West Hartford resident, Lauren Mullaney, will bring her “Tied in Chains” mixed metal jewelry to the arts and crafts show this year.
“If you’re seeking originality you are sure to find it here,” said Belmont.
A complete list of arts and crafts participants, and a map of their locations, can be found in PDF form below.
Can’t you smell the Grandpa’s Kettle Korn already?
If you’re hungry, there are 27 different food vendors offering a selection of yummy dishes ranging from festival favorites to healthy options, to a wide range of desserts.
Rotary Club will be back grilling hot dogs and hamburgers, as will some other standby’s like Delicacy Market and “The Chicken Smells Good.”
New this year are West Hartford’s Blue Elephant Trail with Pad Thai as well as spring rolls and Chicken Satay, Cook & the Bear with a sampling of what you will find at their soon-to-open Blue Back Square restaurant, and Bumpski’s Donuts. If you’ve missed La Petite France in West Hartford Center – Alexandra Litor will be back at Celebrate! West Hartford cooking up sweet and savory crepes on her crepe cart!
Some additional West Hartford vendors include Hartford Baking Company, Harvest Country Store, and the Iron & Grain Co. food truck.
Come for lunch, stay for dinner. There are 27 food vendors, and more than 100 menu choices!
- Ben & Jerry’s Green Monster Cones – Ice Cream, Yogurt, Sorbet, Cups & Cones
- Blue Elephant Trail -Spring Rolls, Chicken Satay, Pad Thai
- Bridge Family Center – Stewart Sodas
- Bumpski’s LLC – Assorted Donuts
- Delicacy Catering – Pirogies, Smoked Brisket, Pulled Pork, Mac & Cheese
- F&W Caterers – Sausage & Cheese Steak, Chicken Pita Greek Gyro, Chicken Fingers, Corn Dogs
- Good Ole Boys Lemonade – Fresh Squeezed Drinks: Lemonade, Limeade, Strawberry and Cherry
- Grandpa’s Kettle Korn – Kettle Korn
- Greater Hartford Host Lions Club – Churros; Assorted drinks
- Harry’s Bishops Corner – Pizza Slices, Drinks
- Hartford Baking Company – Sandwiches, Pastries, Breads, Hot & Iced Coffee
- Harvest Country Store – Hoagies, Candy, Popsicles, Iced Coffee
- Iron & Grain Co. – Black & Bleu Slider, Mexican Street Corn, Buffalo Sprouts, Real Fruit Popsicles
- J’s Crab Shack – Lobster Roll, Sweet Potato Waffle Fries, Shrimp Cocktail
- La Petite France Bakery Café – Sweet & Savory Crepes
- Lorenzo’s Italian Ice – Strawberry and Lemon Italian Ice
- Love Art Sushi – Shoyu Ahi Poke Bowl, Kimchi Tuna Poke Bowl, Seaweed Salad and Inari Sushi
- Maui Wowi Hawaiian Smoothies & Coffees – Fruit and Coffee Smoothies
- Qdoba Mexican Eats – Chicken or Veggie Burrito, Beef Nachos, Chips & Queso
- Rotary Club of West Hartford – Hot Dogs, Hamburgers, Chips, Drinks
- St. George Armenian Church- Hummos, Stuffed Grapeleaves, Tabuleh, Blinz
- The Chicken Smells Good – Chicken On-A-Stick, Bourbon Chicken, Rice, Pasta, Fries, Veggie Rolls
- The Cook & The Bear – BBQ Ribs, Coleslaw, Buttermilk Biscuits, Cookies
- Toasted – Create your own ‘toasted’ sandwich, Sides, Cookies
- Vinci’s Concessions – Fried Dough, Soda, Water
- World’s Best Sundae, Inc. – Cones and Cups, Sundaes, RB Floats, Waffle Cones, Frozen Cappuccino
- Yosi Kosher Catering – Falafel, Hummus, Pita, Spring Rolls
You won’t leave hungry, and if you stay long enough you can have lunch as well as dinner!
Carnival Rides and Games
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, and the horse-drawn trolley, sponsored by RE/MAX Premier REALTORS of West Hartford, will provide a ride around the site.
Young children will enjoy the Circle K petting zoo – where they can visit with the Yard Goats’ actual yard goats! The team mascots – Chompers and Chew Chew – will also be at Celebrate! West Hartford at the Yard Goats booth, where there will also be a blow-up pitching target for people to test their skills.
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.
Attendess – especially “lexicographers” will have fun forming words on the giant scrabble board provided by the Noah Webster House. Festival goers can also try out their skills with the giant Jenga board brought by Westminster Presbyterian Church.
New this year is that credit cards will be accepted for purchase of ride tickets.
The locations of all the activities can be found in the PDF below of the Celebrate! West Hartford program.
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 year’s prizes include water bottles with the brand new leisure services logo.
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 booths.
Non-Profit and Business Exhibitors
Dozens of non-profits and other businesses have also reserved tent space at Celebrate! West Hartford this year. Visitors to the event can stop by the sponsor tents to learn more about the organizations, participate in activities, and in many cases receive free goodies.
The booths are a great vehicle for clubs and other local organizations to engage the community.
“People enjoy learning 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,” she said.
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 showmobile 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 community groups as well as a professional swing band and the contemporary “Avenue Groove.”
Saturday, June 10
- 10:30-11:15 a.m.: King Philip MS Jazz Band
- 11:25 a.m.-12:10 p.m.: Sedgwick MS Jazz Band
- 12:20-1:05 p.m.: Bristow MS Jazz Band
- 1:15-2:15 p.m.: Northwest Catholic HS Big Band & Jazz Singers
- 2:25-2:55 p.m.: Conard High School Be S#arp
- 3:05-4:25 p.m.: Conard High School Concert Jazz Band
- 4:35-5:05 p.m.: Hall High School Jazz Ensemble
- 5:10-6 p.m.: Hall High School Concert Jazz Ensemble
Sunday, June 11
- 12:15-12:45 p.m.: Hartford Men in Harmony (https://hmih.org/)
- 1-1:30 p.m.: West Hartford Women’s Chorale (https://www.whwchorale.org/)
- 1:35-3:30 p.m.: SIMPLY SWING (http://www.simplyswingmusic.com/)
- 4-6:00 p.m.: AVENUE GROOVE (http://www.avenuegroove.com/)
Rain or shine, approximately 1,000 runners are expected to participate in the Celebrate! West Hartford 5K Road Race, scheduled for Sunday, June 11, at 9:30 a.m.
Free t-shirts, with a brand new design created by a West Hartford student, will be available to the first 600 registered runners. The t-shirt design will be revealed on June 8.
Day-of-race registration and the post-event celebration and awards will be held in the festival dining tent on Town Hall grounds this year.
“We have added two new age group categories this year,” Geisler said. There is now a 70-79 age group and an 80-plus category has been added.
Last year there were seven registrants over the age of 80, Geisler said, and 85-year-old Jerry Shimoda-Peterson has already registered. Bib no. 85 has been reserved just for him, she said.
A 91-year-old woman has also registered for the race.
The 30th annual race is directed by the Hartford Track Club, sanctioned by the RRCA and certified by the SATF. The 5K course begins on Raymond Road and ends on Burr Street.
Now in its ninth year, the Kids Fun Run will take place on Sunday, June 11, at 8:30 a.m., with kids ages 10 and under running a new, half-mile course from Blue Back Square to Burr Street. According to race coordinator, Marisa Mascolo Halm, “The race is more about fun than ability or speed. Every finisher receives a medal for completing the course.”
Whole Foods Market will host a reception for the children just past the finish line. Parents can register their children online beforehand, or in the Town Hall parking lot beginning at 8 a.m. on race day. The fee is $5 per child.
Runners can register on-line at www.CelebrateWestHartford.com through June 8; in person at Fleet Feet (Farmington Avenue) June 9 and 10; or in the Town Hall parking lot from 8 to 9 a.m. on race day.
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.
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 31st 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, collecting approximately 8,000 tons of recycling material annually.
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.). For more information about parking, click here.
For the first time at Celebrate West Hartford, Autism Families CONNECTicut will provide a Sensory Friendly Zone. This tented space will be a safe zone for festival patrons on the autism spectrum, or anyone needing a sensory friendly environment. A team of Autism Families CONNECTicut clinicians and volunteers will be on site to offer visitors a variety of sensory activities, including an area for movement, calming, tactile, and focus – each being an iconic aspect of different AFC programs. The space is made available by Charles Schwab.
The West Hartford Bicycle Advisory Committee (WHBAC) and its grass roots organization Bike West Hartford are teaming up once again this year to offer secure valet bicycle parking on Burr Street throughout Celebrate West Hartford. There will be no fee for this service, but donations will be accepted.
According to WHBAC committee member Scott Franklin, “The benefits of cycling are significant. By using a bicycle instead of a car, we help to reduce the carbon footprint, reduce traffic congestion and improve personal health.” For more information, visit http://www.bikewesthartford.org
Programs listing all of the arts and crafts participants, food vendors, sponsors, and a map of the site are provided in PDF form below and will also be available at each of three information booths conveniently spread throughout the Town Hall site.
Visit www.celebratewesthartford.com for more information on the event.