Themed Willimantic food festival features new band

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A food festival inspired by singer Ozzy Osbourne took place in Willimantic on Saturday, Nov. 5, marking the debut performance of a unique tribute band. 

The festival, called Ozzfoodfest, took place from 12-6 p.m. in Jillson Square Park and was organized by Eastside Food Festivals. 

The idea for the event came from Ozzfest, an annual rock and heavy metal music festival founded by Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne, according to Eastside Food Festivals owner, operator, and promoter Tony Ferreira. Ferreira explained he had wanted to create an event different from his usual festivals, which were becoming “a little repetitive.” 

“I was just dying for a new idea,” Ferreira said in a telephone interview. 

Ferreira said he heard about Ozzlands, an Ozzy Osbourne and Badlands tribute band, from a friend who knew its lead singer. This provided him the new idea he was searching for: an Ozzfest-inspired food festival complete with live music. Ozzlands performed at the festival from 3-6 p.m., preceded by rock-and-roll cover band Styff Kitty. 

Ozzlands’ lead singer, Ray Sylvestre, is known onstage as Rozzy. He explained that his band assembled about a year ago and was inspired by Jake E. Lee, who was the guitarist for Ozzy Osbourne and later formed the band Badlands. 

Sylvestre said that although this was the band’s first live performance, it played well and exceeded his expectations. 

“It was a great show,” Sylvestre said in a telephone interview. “I’m very proud of my band for the hard work they put in.” 

Sylvestre also said the festival was a welcome opportunity to play, especially because his band had been struggling to find gigs. 

“There’s not a lot of places to play,” Sylvestre said. “There’s a lot of small businesses that are closing down and the places to play are starting to slowly diminish.” 

The Ozzfoodfest has proven helpful in spreading the word about Ozzlands. 

“A couple of club owners have taken notice of what we accomplished Saturday,” Sylvestre said. 

Besides the music, there was also a wide variety of food available at the event. 

“We had everything from Brazilian to Puerto Rican to your regular American comfort food,” Ferreira said. 

The crowd was diverse in age, with many people falling between 30 and 60 years old. Ferreira also explains that because a lot of younger children tagged along with their families, the festival featured bounce houses. 

“Now that was what really put a twist on it,” Ferreira said. 

Although Ferreira originally thought the Ozzfoodfest would become an annual event, he was so pleased with its execution that he now plans to host it twice a year. He plans for the next one to occur in June. 

“It should be very similar, except better,” Ferreira said. “Things always get better with time.”

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