WALLINGFORD — Big crowds, more booths and spectacular weather marked this year’s Celebrate Wallingford, which kicked off Saturday.
Organizers said this year’s celebration attracted the highest number of businesses, civic groups and food vendors, who lined North and South Main streets. The annual festival has grown in popularity and thousands attend over the two days, according to Liz Landow, Wallingford Center Inc. executive director.
“It’s a great opportunity for the community to get together, relax and have fun,” she said. “It’s a party for the whole town.”
Wallingford Center Inc. organizes the event. Landow has run it for the past five years and said she’s been fortunate to have 18 “awesome” volunteers who begin planning in April. Saturday was a bit of a relief for Landow, who said the preparation can be stressful. She was grateful for the strong turnout, along with a sunny day.
“This is the biggest I’ve seen it in a few years,” Landow said. “This is the biggest by far, ever.”
Thirty-five businesses had booths at the festival, advertising various crafts and services. Celebrate Wallingford expanded the offering of businesses from 22 last year, Landow said. Another 19 groups, many of them local restaurants, had food booths selling festival staples.
Personal trainer John Zvonek advertised Body Temple Fitness by running up and down between the lines of booths, dressed in workout gear and carrying a flag.
Business booths included medical organizations along with arts and craft vendors.
Thirty-three civic groups were also present.
On Saturday morning, the Wallingford Rotary Club organized children to paint fire hydrants in the downtown area to raise money for the public schools’ Project Graduation.
A newcomer to Celebrate Wallingford, Home Depot, organized a children’s workshop and a home improvement expo which also took place Saturday morning near the train station.
Musicians kept the crowds near the food vendors entertained throughout the day.
Cliff Monges and his wife Paula have attended Celebrate Wallingford whenever they’re able. They run across people they know and like to come “just to experience the whole thing, see what it’s all about,” Cliff Monges said.
Living on the Meriden town line, they’re not far and enjoy the atmosphere of Celebrate Wallingord, he said.
Eileen Lettick, president of the Wallingford Chorus, worked her way through the crowd handing out invitations to join the singing group. On her leaflets was a questionnaire that included questions such as, “Do you sing in the shower?” and “Do you find yourself humming a lot?” If you answer yes to any of these questions, Lettick said, you should consider joining the chorus, which meets at Lyman Hall High School.
The group is looking for new singers, particularly young people, so Lettick and fellow chorus members thought Celebrate Wallingford would be a good place to get the word out.
“The Town of Wallingford comes out for this so we didn’t want to let this go by,” she said.
A group of teens from the First Congregational Church of Wallingford pushed a cart through the crowd, selling waters and sodas from a cooler. They were raising money for a trip next summer to Michigan.
“Every year our youth group goes on a missions trip somewhere around the country,” said Connor Filkins, one member of the group.
Twenty-six teens and 10 adults will travel to Michigan to fix up houses for those in need, Filkins said. The group was working to raise money for the rental vans, gas and food for the week-long mission. About $30,000 is needed, so the group has been experimenting with different fundraising ideas, such as dinners and coffeehouses.
This is the second year the congregational church’s youth group has sold drinks at Celebrate Wallingford.
“We’re doing really well with the cart,” said Katie Westervelt.
Landow said the festival used to alternate between lower and upper downtown, but has been on the upper downtown for the last few years. She’s not sure where the festival will be next year, though.
“It’s becoming more and more popular and people really like it uptown,” she said. “It gets more and more popular every year.”
On Friday, town workers finished lining the downtown Wooding-Caplan lot to allow festival goers to park there. Landow said the use of the lot helped the parking situation.
“It was a huge help,” she said.