At the 3rd Thursday Street Fests, Willimantic’s streets are filled with authentic ethnic foods; unique merchants, vendors and crafters; locally crafted beer, soda and ice cream and 8,000 smiling faces. With 10 performances on 6 stages, you’re sure to find “your kind” of music, and something new.
With so much to do, where do you start? Here’s “A Beginners Guide on How to ‘Do the Fest’” from Way Downtown to Uptown and back. The Fests are great for all ages, so bring your friends and family!
Of course you’ll start with Free Parking (and lots of it) on Jillson Square. Get here early for a close spot. Way Downtown at the Gospel Stage at the First Baptist Church, you’ll hear The Browders, of Hiltons VA, one of the nation’s very best Southern Gospel families at 6 and 7:30pm. When the little kids get itchy, head up the street to the free Bounce Room. While they have their fun, you can browse the nearby vendors, and listen to The Yankee Dogs on the Downtown Stage. Tell the teens to throw a few hoops at the free basketball contest, courtesy of the Josh Metell 3 on 3 Classic.
Moving up the street, you’ll want to stop to refresh everyone with a Hosmer Soda, Ra Ra’s Ice Cream or some cotton candy, then let the teens enjoy the BMX/skateboard track (BYO gear, if you’d like) by Burn’s BMX on North Street. They’ll want to stay to check out Windham Idol’s 4 finalists at 7, so have them meet you Midtown at 7:20. (Told you there was something for all ages)
Wandering up the street through crafters and other vendors, you’ll likely split up your group. Someone will want to stop in the Beer Garden to catch the end of Goza and grab a micro-brew from Willimantic Brewing Company, before we run out of that keg. (Good thing you started early). Others will want to check out the jewelry, get their fortune told, buy some fair trade coffee—we have many different kinds of shops and vendors.
Then it’s time for you to dine, and to relax a bit. You’ve got lots of choices: empanadas, falafel, matter paneer, tacos and more. Regroup at a table on Bank Street and catch Ben Kane while you catch your breath and fill your belly. When the teens catch up, send them on ahead to eat pizza, foot long hotdogs, ice cream floats, kettle corn, fried dough: all that bad stuff, and inexpensively priced. They can meet you Uptown, where they can dance the sugar off to the DJ while they wait for you, or try on toe-rings or make jewelry.
Time to hit the street if you want to hear the end of Dizzy River Band at the Courtyard Uptown Stage. Maybe the teens will want to try the climbing wall while you check out both Kerri’s Gallery and Swift Waters Artisans Coop for some fine art and crafts. You’ll be coming back to shop there again. There is free face-painting and other children’s activities Uptown to keep the young ones happy while you meander through the craft and home show vendors during the stage break. Body arts, bags, home improvements…plan on decorating yourself, your house, and getting gifts.
At 8, send the teens to Bank Street to hear the hip hop of POLITICAL ANIMALS, but you’ll want to stay a bit longer and check out the “Very Special Surprise” on the Uptown Stage. We can’t tell you who it is, but they will knock your socks off. Really. Munch on some Mexican or Spanish delights if you get hungry.
Tear yourself away and move back to Midtown ‘cause it’s getting late and we’ve got lots more to see and do. On the way past Bank St, move the teens down the street and tell them to meet you back at the BMX track on North St. where there is a DJ. Even if you aren’t hungry, grab a cupcake, then head into the Beer and Wine Garden where you will dance off all those calories to The Red Hot Horns. Sample local crafted beers, or a Bud. Something for everyone.
It’s getting a little dark now, and the vendors are starting to close up. But the music and dancing in the street goes on ‘til 9. If you missed Goza (or you can’t get enough!), you’ll have another chance to dance to Latin Music at the Downtown Stage, or to hear The Browders at the Way Downtown Stage as you wander back to your car, happy, full, and exhausted. Gotta have more? There will be food, drinks and music in many of the downtown restaurants and bars.
All this is packed into 3 hours on a Thursday night. You won’t want to miss a minute of the fun: August 15th from 6-9 pm. The Festival and Parking are Free, but please purchase a Fest button for $5 to help support the Fests? For info: 860.450.0918, but it’s all at: www.WillimanticStreetFest.com
Jean de Smet
39 Davis St.
Willimantic, CT 06226