A friendly, inviting spirit characterized the atmosphere at the 15 annual Celebrate Mansfield Festival held in Storrs Center Sunday. From food to music to a parade to giveaways, the festival put all of Mansfield’s charm on display while showcasing the vibrance of this unique community.
To kick off the festival, a lively parade marched down Storrs Road. The procession featured all sorts of clubs, teams and organizations from the surrounding community. Local Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops marched, as well as E. O. Smith’s marching band. The University of Connecticut cheerleaders proceeded UConn’s marching band, which gave a performance in front of Betsy Paterson Square after the parade.
“I really liked watching the E. O. Smith Marching Band,” Lexi Esparza, a freshman student at E. O. Smith High School said. The marching band performed their newest show, Retro-Played, which excited many in the crowd.
After the parade ended, the crowd diffused throughout Storrs Center, where many booths featuring local organizations were set up. Of course, some of the most popular booths were those with free giveaways. The Oaks booth offered free sunglasses, the Adventure Park at Storrs handed out carabiners and frisbees and Barnes and Noble had small prizes for children. Other booths featured prize wheels. Festival-goers could spin the wheel at Amazon to get a pen, notebook or sunglasses. At Blaze, those with the Blaze app could spin the wheel for a free pizza, s’mores pie or drink. Attendees enjoyed the interactive booths, many of which had play-a-game, win-a-prize setups.
“This is our second year coming here, and we just got [to the festival], but I like all the variety of vendors that they have and how it’s very culturally inclusive,” Joanna Fisher, a Hampton resident who brought her family to the festival, said. “It’s very diverse and I love it. It’s a lot of fun.”
Business owners and their employees were excited to share information about their products and services, while local volunteers used their time to help out with operations. One of these volunteers, Julia Sherman, said that the festival was more than just a chance to bring everyone together. It was an opportunity to display everything that the community had to offer.
“This used to be called ‘Know Your Town Fair,’” Sherman said. “It was really tiny, it was held at the town hall…. This has grown from that…. We have thousands of new students who come in, new professors and their families, and they don’t know where the Boy Scout troop is or what’s the Jorgensen. It started to help people get acclimated.”
Of course, no festival is complete without entertainment. Celebrate Mansfield featured cooking demos by two UConn chefs. Chef Ronald Swiller cooked New England corn and bacon fritters, and a little later Chef Robert Landolphi demonstrated how to cook grilled carrot dogs. Though some were skeptical at first of the carrot dogs, many people enjoyed the dish upon eating it. For the audience at the fritter presentation, however, it was love at first bite when they tasted the little balls of breaded and fried mashed potatoes.
In terms of music, the Blue Line Brass Band played some cool jazzy beats while Sinkane later dazzled with an interesting rock-jazz mix.
“I love it. I love it,” UConn Ph.D. student Mlamuli Hlatshwayo said when he and his friend were asked about the performances and the festival in general. “We are from South Africa, so we are just Ph.D. students for the fall season, so this is virtually our first festival, so it’s really, really, really quite awesome and a great way to integrate into the town and the city as well.”
Many of Celebrate Mansfield’s attendees felt this sense of community at the festival. Third semester management information systems major Andrew Taylor said that he enjoyed the festival and got to learn about Mansfield.
“Celebrate Mansfield really showed me how close the community of Mansfield is,” Taylor said.
Stephanie Santillo is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.