Bridgeport Arts Fest
Sat., July 7, 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Free. McLevy Green, State & Main streets, Bridgeport, (203) 576-7201, bridgeportartsfest.org.
The energy and excitement behind last year's Bridgeport Arts Fest was palpable. There was a look of surprise on attendees' faces as they wandered into McLevy Green and witnessed all the action: It was bigger and better than they thought it was going to be, and this was very refreshing. "Whoa, this is actually pretty cool," was heard uttered more than once or twice.
For many years, Bridgeport had been teased with promising ideas that never seemed to take shape, be it redevelopment plan after redevelopment plan for Steel Point, talk of putting Pleasure Beach into use again, or a steady but painfully slow downtown revitalization. Lots of talk and no follow through. We've heard all the excuses, over and over again. For many, all hope was lost for a while.
There's still no entertainment district at Steel Point, and Pleasure Beach is still overgrown and off limits to all but the occasional urban explorer, but what has happened is that artists have planted their seeds all around town which have in turn sprouted and taken deep root. Cheap rents, lots of old factory and warehouse spaces, easy access to New York City… there are things that artists require that Bridgeport can provide, and the secret is out. Now Bridgeport has got the Read's ArtSpace, Gallery 305K, the American Fabrics Building, the NEST, the recently-restored Bijou Theatre, the Acoustic Café, the City Lights Gallery, Gathering of the Vibes, and even the Klein is once again booked with solid acts that are helping it to reach its potential. The city is waking from its long slumber, at least artistically.
There's lots of artistic output to show off, and the 2012 Bridgeport Arts Fest is the place to do just that. It's a showcase for all that's been growing and blooming inside those old factory walls, and in the Greater Bridgeport area too.
Benjamin Henson is the Arts Fest Coordinator. He's seen the festival grow dramatically since its humble beginnings just two short years ago.
"We've gone from two bands, 24 artists and three food vendors to 20 Performers, over 100 artists and 13 food vendors," says Henson. "We've added the Downtown Tour of Living, the Seaside Bike Ride, the Urban Beautification Murals project and Block Party, the Summer Fashion Show and Poetry SLAMM, Photo Walking Tours and many demonstrations, like beeswax, bookbinding, dance lessons, glassblowing, home brewing, loom weaving and pen turning."
All artists' offerings up for sale will be unique, locally-created works, and there will be no vendors reselling items. All music will be original, and there will be no cover bands.
"I'm always excited about the after-party," says Henson. "This year we have Party Horse, Rambunction, Moon Hooch and Kung Fu. I think Moon Hooch, out of Brooklyn, is going to blow everybody away. We 'discovered' them playing the subway in New York, and their energy elevates the crowd's energy to another place. … There isn't a single slouch. We're very proud of this year's lineup."
From 10 in the morning until 10 at night, there will be non-stop action on McLevy Green, covering a wide spectrum of music, theater and art. If you're not into whatever's happening at a particular time, just wander around amongst the vendors for a half-hour and then see what's on next.
"There's so much for everybody of all ages to enjoy," says Henson. "There's no excuse to stay at home."
McLevy Green Day Stage Lineup, 10am-6pm
10:05 a.m – Amy Irish Yoga
10:50 a.m – Forecast: Sunny
11:20 a.m. – Bridgeport Theatre Company
Noon – The Clams
1 p.m. – Mayor Bill Finch