HARTFORD— EnvisionFest, a free multiday festival celebrating Connecticut's capital city, will debut this September.
"We are trying to stimulate the senses of all that Hartford has to offer," says Maureen Connolly, the creative consultant who helped come up with the idea for the event.
Planned activities include everything from live jazz on the corner of Jewel and Gold Streets, to a living chess set, to an attempt to break the Guinness world record for largest Zumba dance exercise class.
The occasion will culminate in an "innovation festival" on Saturday, Sept. 29 and a performance from the Hartford Symphony.
There are 19 venues scheduled to participate, including Bushnell Theater, Hartford Stage, the Riverfront, Charter Oak Cultural Center, and the State Capitol Building.
"Individual organizations have held events before, such as Mark Twain Days [sponsored by the Mark Twain House]," says project manager for iQuilt and co-coordinator for EnvisionFest Jackie Mandyck, "but never all on the same day."
An app is being designed to help people navigate the event when it occurs. An official website was recently launched at envisionfesthartford.com, currently under construction and scheduled to fully debut on June 28, while a Facebook page was created in February.
"We are hoping 25 or 30 thousand people show up," says Connolly, "especially because all of it except the food will be free."
"Everything is within walking distance in downtown Hartford," adds Mandyck, "so you should not need to drive anywhere."
"The goal is to honor Hartford as the capital city," says Jordan Polon, Director of Marketing at the Hartford Business Improvement District, who is helping to market the event. "People will experience the kind of activity that will soon be the norm in Hartford."
The festival's official description similarly articulates an idea of a festive gathering to promote the city.
"Hartford cultural institutions, Connecticut's industries and artists will celebrate their vision of the future through interactive displays, exhibits, performances and activities in open houses and public spaces throughout downtown, all connected through walking and biking routes," reads the festival's official description.
"Hartford's newest event will showcase and celebrate the ingenuity of the city's and state's industries, artists and people, while offering a taste, for the first time, of the transformation of Hartford through the iQuilt plan."
The iQuilt plan is a collection of public and private projects designed to revitalize downtown Hartford, at a cumulative cost of nearly $100 million.
"The individual and collective aim of all of the projects is to enhance public space, increase foot traffic on downtown sidewalks, upgrade public transit, implement 'green infrastructure,' and promote energy efficient buildings," says iQuilt Parternship chairman Chuck Shivery.
With attractions such as the Connecticut Convention Center and Connecticut Science Center opening in downtown Hartford during the past few years, the hope is for a revitalization of both the city's business and arts components. Specific planned projects include renovations to Bushnell Park and the Wadsworth Atheneum art museum.
The EnvisionFest event will be held all day, raine or shine, on Thursday, Sept. 27; Friday, Sept. 28; and Saturday, Sept. 29. If successful, the organizers hope to transform it into an annual occurrence.
Oh, and the current world record for largest Zumba dance class? It was set in February by 3,105 participants in Cairns, Queensland, Australia.
"Hartford can definitely beat that," said Connolly.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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