CHESHIRE — Fourteen years after its closing, the Ball and Socket factory was again bustling with activity on Sunday. Instead of workers, its front courtyard was filled with artists painting, creating blown glass, and selling homemade jewelry.
“The vendors here are wonderful,” said Monique Donofrio, a Cheshire resident who volunteered to help run the market. As she spoke, Donofrio sat in the shade and painted flowers with her granddaughter and other children. She volunteered on Sunday to get outside and be around her neighbors and fellow artists.
Put together by Ball and Socket Arts, the market raised funds to renovate the factory into a community center and space for local artists to work. One building featuring a gallery is planned to open next year and is already covered with paintings from local artists. The other buildings are planned to one day host a movie theater, a restaurant with a teaching kitchen, a rooftop garden and bar, retail space for artists and a brewery.
“It’s going to be a wonderful destination for people all around to come to Cheshire,” said Gary Richards, event director for the arts organization.
“They’re here to shop and they’re here for a good time and to support the vendors, but they’re here because they believe in Ball and Socket Arts,” said Richards, who said the turnout far surpassed the organization’s goal of 500 visitors.
Brian Giampietro, owner of Brian’s Guitars and a Cheshire native, said organization’s plans for the factory was a key factor in his decision to move his business nearby after seven years in Hamden.
“What they intend to do sounds amazing,” Giampietro said. His table at the market saw a steady stream of people signing up for music lessons and asking about guitars.
“This is going to be another jewel in Cheshire’s crown,” said Diane Calabro, president of the Cheshire Historical Society. The society has its own table at the market and had set out artifacts from the factory and booklets about the area’s history.
“Everything they do here is awesome,” said Dave Calabro, also a member of the historical society. When he was younger, he said his father had many friends who worked in the factory. He was standing next to a collection of buttons made in the factory, some dating back to the Civil War.
“It’s a great thing for us to do on a Sunday,” said Doug Parkerson, a Cheshire resident who came upon the event while biking the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail with his daughter, Lyla.
“It’s nice that this is so accessible from the trail,” Parkerson said. The trail runs onto West Main Street right in front of the factory.
As Parkerson spoke, he occasionally paused to applaud Jason Pipitone, a performer out of Plainville. Pipitone attracted a crowd surrounding him as he juggled and balanced all manner of props on his head. A crowd favorite was balancing a bottle on top of a ball, which rested on a wooden spoon sticking out of his mouth, all while running around the courtyard.
The market also featured a magician, a singer and a band, who performed on or around a stage build by Jeff Petit, cousin to state Rep. William Petit.
“It’s nice to have art in town,” said Beth Amter, a Cheshire resident who was happy to see the building finally being put to good use.
“It will bring some culture,” Amter said. Plus, it’ll give her a place to buy from local artists, which she’s always happy to do.
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