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OPINION: It’s time to celebrate Wallingford

OPINION: It’s time to celebrate Wallingford

Less than two weeks from now, on Oct. 5 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Oct. 6 from noon until 5 p.m,, Wallingford Center Inc. will be holding its 33rd Celebrate Wallingford festival. Because, like last year, Center Street from North and South Whittlesey Avenues to North and South Elm Streets will be closed, this wonderful event is going to be the largest it has ever been. I have always referred to it as Wallingford’s two-day party, and, as a member of WCI’s board, and on behalf of WCI Executive Director Liz Landow, I once again shamelessly want to tell you about it and enthusiastically invite you to join in the fun.

Before giving an update on what you will find at Celebrate Wallingford, I want to mention once again why the event has been located just in the “uptown” area of our town center for the past eight years rather than alternating between this area and the “downtown” area near the former railroad station as was done in the past. First of all, the railroad tracks always presented a hazard, but much more now since CTRail commuter service began in June of 2018. It’s just too dangerous to have thousands of people cross those tracks, even with Amtrak Police there. Secondly, especially with the closing of Center Street, there is way more room in the present location, which enables many more civic organizations and businesses to participate.

Every available space for businesses and civic groups has been taken. The numbers are amazing: 60 civic groups, 54 businesses, and 20 crafters will have tents in which they will have displays, give out information, and/or sell interesting and creative items.

Six car dealers have signed up to bring some of the cars they sell, and they will be located on both sides of Center Street west of North and South Main Streets. Weather permitting, we will also have the opportunity to check out a dozen or more classic cars that have been lovingly restored and retained in mint condition.

As many may recall, this event was originally named Taste of Wallingford, and many people still refer to Celebrate Wallingford by that name. It has to be because food is such a prominent feature. There will be sixteen food vendors lined up on the east side of South Main Street, including two food trucks, one of which is part of the Wallingford Public School System.  Each food vendor will be selling something different from all the others, so the choices will be wide and varied.

As in past years, there will be fun activities for every age. There will be a children’s area hosted by the Wallingford Community Women, in conjunction with Wallingford Parks & Recreation and the Youth & Social Services Department. As always, there will be a “Touch-a-Truck” area with equipment from various sources displayed for kids (and us old kids) to examine.

There will be entertainment offerings on both days and will include six bands, as well as dancers and musicians from local organizations. This year we have a special treat: For one hour on Sunday, we will be entertained by Gary Burr and Georgia Middleman, songwriters and performers from Nashville. Gary is originally from Meriden, and, as luck would have it, he and Georgia happened to be performing nearby on Saturday.

The Wallingford Health Department will have an area where children can paint pumpkins. There is also going to be a Health and Wellness area with displays and information, as well.

Of course, there is no Celebrate Wallingford without organizations coming forth with financial support. Once again, Allnex and Roehm America, the two chemical manufacturers at the end of South Cherry Street, have stepped up to be the Executive Sponsors. Choate Rosemary Hall continues its tradition as a Gold Sponsor, joined by Members First CT Federal Credit Union. Nucor Steel Connecticut and Masonicare are Silver Sponsors, and Midstate Medical Center and Hartford HealthCare are Bronze Sponsors. They will have informative displays and handouts at their tents, as well.

While this event is put on by WCI, we get great assistance from Town of Wallingford departments, particularly Health, Fire, Police, Parks and Rec, the Electric Division, and especially Public Works. In addition to that, we receive equipment donations from local businesses – White Way Laundry and Thurston Foods.

So it is indeed time to Celebrate Wallingford by attending this wonderful fall event. You will learn tons about dozens and dozens of organizations, see many things of interest, eat delicious food, see friends you perhaps haven’t seen for a while, and just enjoy the beautiful (we hope and pray!) autumn weather. Most of all, you will once again see why people who live here find Wallingford so special. I’ll see you there!

Stephen Knight is a former Wallingford town councilor.