Orange Street was alive with free yoga classes, booths from local artisans and live entertainment on Saturday as the annual East Rock Festival returned to New Haven.
The festival attracted vendors and performers to partake in a three-block event lasting from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The extravaganza took place on Orange Street, the home of a residential neighborhood as well as commercial enterprises, including restaurants and markets in the East Rock neighborhood. After 5 p.m., the event became a block party during which the Cottage Street Stage hosted performers to entertain attendees drawn to the tight-knit neighborhood. The event was expected to bring in more than 3,000 attendees, according to Marissa Gandelman, a member of the East Rock Festival Management Team and owner of Elm City Wellness, a key sponsor of the festival.
“We’ve got a little bit more vibrancy coming back into this neighborhood in a way that hasn’t been for a long time, and this festival kind of anchors it,” Gandelman said. “It’s a really great way to come out and see the diversity of this neighborhood, and it all comes together in three blocks.”
The festival had been an annual event in the community until last year, when no coordinative effort managed to plan the all-day extravaganza, Gandelman said.However, this year, local businesses collaborated over a three-month period to pull the festival together, finding musical entertainment and raising money through a trivia night that yielded more than $1,300, according to Gandelman.
Many businesses saw the festival as an opportunity to reach a broader clientele.
“I thought the neighborhood event would be a really cool opportunity to introduce my products to another area,” said Jaclyn Carter, CEO of A Spirit of Joy Organic Skin Care. “I live in the West Hartford area, and I value community in the neighborhoods that do things like this”
Carter’s company sells organic moisturizers for body and face, and like many of the other vendors at the East Rock Festival, prides itself on its handcrafted products.
This year marked the first time Carter participated in the festival. However, other companies, such as Elm City Wellness, have taken part for years. Gandelman estimates Elm City Wellness’s business grew by over 25 percent after its first showing at the festival.
“It’s probably because of the East Rock Festivals and other small festivals in the community that we left our tiny little office on State Street hidden in a basement and moved to a wellness center space,” Gandelman said.
The festival itself was not intended to generate profit; instead, the managing team simply hoped to break even, Gandelman said. In the future, she added, the managers hope to convert the festival into a fundraiser for scholarship money. This year, the festival set aside a number of booths for nonprofit groups, including Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services.
Other sponsors of the event included Big Boy Entertainment, Elm City Wellness, Activity, East Rock Coffee, P&M Fine Food and Farnam Realty Group, which sponsored the festival’s kids’ zone.
Carol Horsford, a mother and the owner of Farnam Realty Group, said she took a special interest in the kids’ zone, which consisted of a puppy parade, arts and crafts, live music and storytelling. She said she also took an interest in the neighborhood from a realtor’s perspective, as it has commercial value that other neighborhoods lack.
The community not only houses retail, but also serves as a home for many New Haven families, several of whom walked outside their houses to attend Saturday’s festival.
East Rock borders the town of Hamden.
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