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  • Writer's pictureGreenwich Chamber

Rain doesn't dampen enthusiasm for Whipple City Festival

The Post-Star

Evan Lawrence

Sporadic rain Saturday didn't stop the 31st annual Whipple City Festival in downtown Greenwich. People of all ages broke out the umbrella and rain jackets and visited food vendors and community organization booths, listened to live music, and played games.

The village's Main Street was closed from John Street to Hill Street with vendors' tents set up in the middle of the street. More vendors and horse-drawn wagon rides were around the corner in Washington Square. Musicians played on a stage at the rear of Wallie’s Restaurant parking lot and under a tent in Washington Square.

Chey Blackmer, director of the Greenwich Youth Center, was busy selling flavor-your-own popcorn, tickets for an ice cream-eating contest, and wrist bands for unlimited basketball hoops, time in a bounce house and archery. The prize for the ice cream-eating was a $25 gift certificate from The Ice Cream Man, a local ice cream shop. Volunteers sold raffle tickets for green T-shirts with the center's new logo.

Blackmer encouraged youngsters to sign up for the center's summer program, which starts on June 26. "We've had a few today," she said between handing out bags of popcorn.

Main Street was decorated with purple signs, ribbons, and flowers for Greenwich's Paint the Town Purple, part of the Alzheimer's Association's Longest Day fundraiser. Longest Day committee members Mackenzie Duffy and Ann Fiorini were staffing the Longest Day tent, featuring a 50/50 raffle, a raffle for goods and services, T-shirts and literature from the Alzheimer's Association.

"It's been really good," Duffy said. "There's a lot of support. There's been a lot of really generous donations."

"A lot of people have connections to Alzheimer’s," Fiorini said. "People like to come and just talk about it."

Duffy and Fiorini credited financial adviser Breanna Lundy, who runs the local Edward Jones wealth management office, with leading the Paint the Town Purple event. "She got us all motivated," Duffy said.

Sarah Murphy, director of the Greenwich Free Library, was giving away children's books at the library's tent. "It's free. Why don’t you take a chance?" she told one youngster who was uncertain about a title.

Murphy was letting people know about the library's all-ages summer reading program. The national theme this year is "All Together Now/Todos Juntos Ahora."

Murphy said she'd like to break last year's page count of 200,000. "We had more than 100 people signed up. The adults really made a strong showing," she said. The library plans a big end-of-summer party for participants with prizes from local businesses, Murphy said.

Holly Harris, owner and founder of Windy Hill CBD & Wellness Co., was one of many Main Street businesses holding open houses. The shop displayed CBD and THC products, glassware, polished stones and crystals. A special feature is a dry salt therapy booth, which Harris said is helpful for lung congestion, skin irritations, and relaxation, among other benefits.

Traffic during the morning "has been good," Harris said. "People like to check it out."

Harris said she's been in her Hill Street corner location since 2019. She's seen the stigma around cannabis products diminish as people become more accepting of them as health aids. Sleep gummies are especially popular with older people, Harris said.

The festival is organized by the Greater Greenwich Chamber of Commerce. Kelly Eustis, the chamber's managing director, was philosophical about the rain. "It really does put a serious damper on things," he said, but he was hopeful that people would come out later if the weather improved. The headliner band, the popular Eastbound Jesus, was scheduled to go on at 7 p.m. on the stage behind Wallie’s.

"They always bring in a big crowd," Eustis said.

Friday night's parade and entertainment "went really well," Eustis said. "We had a bit lower turnout than last year, but the parade and band were great." The parade grand marshal, Jim McClay, was a retired agriculture teacher at Greenwich Central School.

"We had lots of FFA participation in the parade," Eustis said.

The chamber changes the format of the street festival every year. This year, organizers shut down one block of Main Street and put vendors' booths down the center. That made it easier for people to reach shops along the street, he said — a good way to support local businesses.

"We're still trying things out year to year," he said.

The chamber is always seeking feedback from the community about people would like to see.

"It's difficult to implement unless people get involved," Eustis said. Volunteers are always welcome — they don’t have to be chamber members, he said.


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