Groton’s Hometown Pride
TOWN CELEBRATES ITSELF fall festival WITH ANNUAL
BBecause part of Mystic is in Groton, the latter’s identity sometimes can be overshadowed by the very exciting events that happen near the river and the bascule bridge. In addition to what’s on the calendar in Mystic, Groton is also home to events that have attracted a devoted following and are getting bigger every year. One example is Groton’s Fall Festival, which will be held Oct. 11 from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. The third annual event will feature activities aimed to please everyone in the family, from a car show to a karaoke contest to skateboarding to live music, plus a wide assortment of vendors. The emphasis is on local vendors of food, arts and crafts and area businesses and organizations.
Most of the action is at Poquonnock Plains Park, but the car show is at Grasso Tech (also the main parking area; shuttles will run continuously). The skateboarding competition will take place at Sutton Park, which is right near the main venue.
Other things going on throughout the day include a farmers market, displays from 14 area fire departments (it will be Fire PreventionWeek) with their apparatus, plus a National Guard Black Hawk helicopter.
“It’s a pretty big range of events,” said Jim Bates, who works for Edward Jones in Mystic and, with Realtor Lian Obrey, is co-chairing the event for the Groton Business Association of the Greater Mystic Chamber of Commerce. “It’s quite a day. I can’t think of anyone who will be bored or miss out on something.”
Young kids will be entertained all day with such crowd-pleasers as a bouncy house and playground right nearby, and everyone will get a kick out of the karaoke contest.
“I can’t believe people are that courageous,” said FrankWinkler of Groton Utilities, a GBA member involved with event promotion. “AndyWarhol once talked about the 15 minutes of fame… these people have about two or three minutes.”
In past years, the contest has had more than its fair share of participants as this barroom phenomenon of the 1990s has retained its popularity.
“I think ‘American Idol’ has kept it alive,” Bates said.
The festival itself has been growing steadily since its first year, proving that Groton residents are eager to have a celebration of their hometown. Winkler said the first year attracted around 3,000 people, and about 5,000 attended in 2007. As a rain-or-shine event, it is weatherdependent, and so far the choice of date has been fortuitous.
“Hopefully the good fortune will continue to shine,” Winkler said. “It is very difficult to do Sunday rain dates. On Friday night, we’re sweating out the radar.”
Every year, the committee has been fine-tuning the logistics of the event and learning through experience.
“The first year— we didn’t realize it at the time— Fitch had a morning home football game,” Winkler said. “Talk about traffic. That might have actually helped us, but we are paying attention to things like that now.”
Said Bates: “There has been a lot of emphasis on the logistics such as parking. We have significantly improved handicap parking, for instance. The accessibility is much better now.”
All of this is in hopes that Groton residents and beyond come to check out the eclectic mix of events and vendors that are in town. Where else can you get a concert (by 9Teen) and watch a helicopter take off?
“There’s always a large group to watch that helicopter,” saidWinkler of the end of the day’s festivities. “The little ones and the bigger ones we call adults just love that.”
In general, there is something for everyone, which is just how the organizers planned it.
“None of this could have taken off without the support of the community at large,” Bates said. “It’s an interactive day on all sides, from both the participants’ and vendors’ points of view.”
THERE IS A LITTLE BIT OF EVERYTHING AT THE GROTON FALL FESTIVAL, FROM OLD-FASHIONED AUTUMN FUN, TOP, TO OLD-TIME JOUSTING. DAY FILE PHOTOS.