The 35th Celebrate! West Hartford returns on Saturday, June 11 and Sunday, June 12, and here’s a guide to what you need to know.
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 35th year, Celebrate! West Hartford will be held on Saturday, June 11, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday, June 12, from noon to 6 p.m. on the grounds of Town Hall.
When it began, Celebrate! was a one-day event, but it has now evolved into an award-winning festival that in past years has regularly attracted nearly 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.
“It is exciting to bring this beloved event back to life after its two-year shutdown. They say that ‘We have it all in West Hartford.’ Nowhere is that more evident than at Celebrate! where you will find active nonprofits which enhance our community; hardworking businesses offering outstanding products and services; and community leaders dedicated to preserving and improving our natural resources,” Event Director Linda Geisler said.
“We’re happy to show off what makes West Hartford such a wonderful place to live, work, play and visit. This festival is a fun way for families to kick off the summer together while shopping, eating, dancing, riding rides, and visiting with neighbors and friends,” Geisler added.
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.
“I’m so excited to be chairing the Celebrate! West Hartford Committee, and to be bringing back the town’s signature festival that we have missed the past two years,” said Joan Karas.
“On behalf of the Town of West Hartford, and after two years of COVID-related shutdowns, I am delighted to welcome everyone back to town for the 35th annual Celebrate! West Hartford,” Mayor Shari Cantor said. “This signature event draws people from all over the region to our town to enjoy the festival and while they are here, to experience first-hand the dynamics that make West Hartford an award-winning place to live. Come and have a great time,” she said.
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.
Here’s what you can expect to find at this year’s Celebrate! West Hartford.
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 150 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.
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.
A list of vendors has been published on the Celebrate! West Hartford website, and programs listing the artists and crafters, their works, and their locations will be available at Information Booth No. 1 on South Main Street.
The program brochure is also included as a PDF below.
Calories don’t count at festivals.
Even if you don’t start out hungry, the smells coming from the 20-plus 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 J’s Crab Shack and Harry’s Bishops Corner.
West Hartford’s Sweet Chili will return with their delicious Chicken Terryaki and other dishes, and local favorites Hartford Baking Company and the Toasted food truck will also be on site.
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!
- Banh Meee – Pork Banh Mi; Beef Banh Mi; Pork Eggrolls; Veggie Banh Mi; Noodle Veggie Bowl; Pork Nuggets; Chips; Flavored Lime-aid
- Ben & Jerry’s – Ice Cream-Dairy & Non-Dairy; Yogurt; Sorbet; Cups & Cones; Toppings
- Chompers – Fried Two-Bite Balls: Bacon Cheeseburger, Chicken Parm, Taco
- Cukoo’s Hawaiian Shave Ice
- Flavors – Caribbean Platter; BBQ or Jerk Chicken or Pork; Spanish Rice; Fried Sweet Plaintains; Guava or Mango Juice; Deep Fried Desserts
- Futures Inc. – Iced Tea Lemonade; Packaged Choc. Drizzle Popcorn
- Good Ole Boys Lemonade – Fresh Squeezed Drinks: Lemonade, Limeade, Strawberry & Cherry
- Grandpa’s Kettle Korn – Kettle Korn
- Greater Hartford Host Lions Club – French Fries
- Harry’s Bishops Corner – Pizza Slices; Gluten Free Slice; Drinks
- Hartford Baking Company – Pretzels, Pastries, Hot & Iced Coffee
- J’s Crab Shack – Lobster Roll-Hot/Cold, Fried Clam Strip/Whole Belly; Lobster Tater Tots, Mini Crab Cake w/ Bourbon Sauce
- Maui Wowi – Fresh Fruit Smoothies; Hot & Iced Coffee Drinks; Pulled Pork/Chicken Luau Wraps
- Prime Concessions – Sausage & Cheese Steak, Greek Gyro, Chicken Fingers, Corn Dogs
- Rotary Club of West Hartford – Hot Dogs, Hamburgers, Chips
- Sweet Chili – Grilled Chicken Teriyaki; Vegetable Fried Rice; Vegetable Lo mein; Smoothie Bubble Tea; Sticky rice with Mango
- Toasted – Toasted sandwiches
- Vinci’s Concessions – Fried Dough, Soda, Water
- World’s Best Sundae, Inc. – Soft Ice Cream Cones & Cups; Cappuccino; Floats
- Yosi 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.
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.
Blue Back Square merchants will be providing samples and demonstrations, and other local businesses will have giveaways such as frisbees, water bottles, t-shirts, and goodie bags. There will be raffles for some major prizes (fire pit, Echo dot) a martial arts board-breaking demonstrations, mini guitar lessons, and more.
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.
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.
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.
Nonprofit and Business Exhibitors
Dozens of nonprofits and other businesses have reserved tent space at Celebrate! West Hartford once again this year. Visitors to the event can stop by the booths to learn more about the organizations.
There are plenty of free activities at the nonprofit and sponsor booths as well, ranging from coloring pages and puzzles, raffles, martial arts challenges, games to win prizes, and loads of giveaways.
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.
American Legion Hayes-Velhage Post 96, which is commemorating its 100th anniversary this year, is one of the organizations that will have a booth at the event.
Free COVID-19 vaccines will also be available from Griffin Health through the Connecticut Department of Public Health during the entire Celebrate! West Hartford event. First and second doses, as well as boosters – including second boosters – will be administered to all who are eligible.
“The event is a great vehicle for community engagement. 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.”
The locations of all the activities will be posted on the website and in the Celebrate! West Hartford program that will be available at the Information Booths both days of the festival and is attached as a PDF below.
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.
The schedule of musical performances (at press time) features
Saturday, June 11
- 10:30-11:30 a.m. Northwest Catholic Jazz Band & Jazz Singers
- 11:40 a.m.-noon King Philip Middle School Jazz Band
- 12:35-1:20 p.m. Bristow Middle School Big Band
- 1:30-2:25 p.m. Sedgwick Middle School Jazz Band
- 2:35-3:05 p.m. Conard High School Be S#arp
- 3:15-4:30 p.m. Conard High School Jazz Ensemble & Concert Jazz Band
- 4:40-6 p.m. Hall High School Jazz Band II and Concert Jazz Band
Sunday, June 12
- Noon-1:30 p.m. School of Rock West Hartford House Band
- 2:30-4 p.m. Latanya Farrell
- 4:05 p.m. Sustainable CT Certification Award Presentation to Mayor Cantor
- 4:30-6 p.m. Orquesta Afinke
The Celebrate! Committee has changed the name of this element of the festival from “Road Races” to “FUNd RUNS” to emphasize the charitable nature of the running events. This change initially came about because of COVID when we couldn’t hold the runs in person, but many people still wanted an opportunity to come together as a community to support our neighbors in need by participating in a healthy activity together but apart.
In 2020 and 2021 we held virtual FUNd RUNS where people could log their mileage and time.
The tradition of the running events for many years has been that a portion of the proceeds are donated to the Leisure Services Scholarship Fund. This fund helps children from low-income families pay for camps during the summer and school vacations where they can learn to swim and engage in other life-enhancing programs.
During the pandemic, the virtual events also supported The Town That Cares which provides for families in times of crisis.
The kids’ run, which had been called the Kids’ Fun Run, is now the Kids’ K – and it is a non-timed, non-competitive run.
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 – one of the most popular competitive races in the area – scheduled for Sunday, June 12. Start time for the 5K is 9 a.m. The 5K is open to runners and walkers of all abilities, ages 6 and up.
Before the 5K, the non-competitive Kids’ K for children 10 and under will take place on Sunday at 8 a.m. The course is 1.75 loops around Blue Back Square starting on Raymond Road. 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 a $150 gift card to Restore Hyper Wellness and tickets to the Yard Goats and Hartford Athletic.
Registration will also be available along with packet pick-up at Fleet Feet Sports, 1003 Farmington Ave., West Hartford, on Friday, June 10, from 3-6 p.m. and Saturday, June 11, from 9 a.m.-noon.
Race-day registration and packet pick-up is also available, from 7:30-8:30 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.
More information about the FUNd RUNS, including the link to online registration, can be found here and on the Celebrate! West Hartford website.
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.
Green West Hartford
The Town of West Hartford and Celebrate! West Hartford continue to promote sustainability as well as 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.
This year Natural Dividends is partnering with the Department of Public Works’ West Hartford Recycles to help make Celebrate! West Hartford more sustainable. It is also part of an effort for the Town of West Hartford to earn the Sustainable CT certification.
Natural Dividends will be working with food vendors to reduce trash by through a variety of incentives, including encouraging use of recyclable serving containers. They will also promote proper waste and recycling disposal by staffing waste collection areas and providing education in person and through signage.
In addition, the Town’s Clean Energy Commission will have a booth to promote the HeatSmart West Hartford campaign – a year-long outreach program that assists residents in accessing the energy efficiency programs and incentives available through Energize CT.
Energize CT’s Energy in Action will present its interactive mobile exhibit, a 30-foot trailer loaded with educational hands-on experiments and guided tours to teach children about the benefits of becoming an energy-efficient society.
Several other organizations are working to provide a “cleaner West Hartford,” including the West Hartford Land Trust, Friends of West Hartford Parks, Bike West Hartford and the Blue Back Farmer’s Market.
West Hartford’s Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) has provided much-needed volunteer assistance at COVID-19 vaccination clinics, N95 mask distributions, and at the Park Road Parade, and will fill important roles at Celebrate! West Hartford as well.
“The mission of the CERT team is to support our local first responders, other town departments and residents during emergencies and town wide events,” said Bob McCue, the town’s former assistant police chief who is now the deputy director of West Hartford’s Office of Emergency Management (led by Fire Chief Greg Priest) and leads CERT’s efforts. “So far the team has logged over 1,700 service hours toward that goal. The core principles of the team are simple: everyone can prepare, everyone can help and everyone is welcome,” McCue said.
For more information on CERT, visit [email protected].
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 on the Facebook page (@celebratewesthartford). 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 35th anniversary of the event.
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.).
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 9:45 a.m. for the FUNd RUNS
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,” West Hartford Animal Control advised.
PeoplesBank is first presenting sponsor
PeoplesBank, which recently opened a branch at 102 LaSalle Road in West Hartford, announced last fall that they would donate $10,000 to Celebrate! West Hartford, as the event’s first presenting partner.
“We have found the town, the businesses and the residents of West Hartford to be so welcoming to us, and we are happy to support a fun, free event for everyone to enjoy,” Matthew Bannister, SVP of Corporate Responsibility for PeoplesBank, said in a statement. “The fact that proceeds help to fund important local causes makes this an even better fit for us.”
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