Spring Stroll 2018: ‘It’s time to get back into town’

After a lengthy winter hibernation, Ridgefielders must be anxious to stretch their legs on Main Street and see what’s new in the village.

Downtown Ridgefield merchants will be waiting for them with open arms — and doors — this weekend when the annual Spring Stroll takes over town Saturday, May 5, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

“I think everyone is ready to get outside after the winter we just had,” said Kathy Graham of Fairfield County Bank.

“It’s time to get back into town and discover the new restaurants and new stores,” added Ursula Hanavan of Interiors and Designs by Ursula, who also serves as vice president of Downtown Ridgefield’s board of directors. “There are stores that are carrying new merchandise, too, and it’s that time of year with Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and high school and college graduations coming around the corner.”

A spin-off from December’s Holiday Stroll, the spring festival has everything from jugglers to stilt walkers to unicyclists.

In case that isn’t enough, there will be a kids scavenger hunt, a baking contest, a jewelry-making and art exhibit, a petting zoo, a library book sale, face painting, and balloon artists.

Oh, and plenty of chalk drawings.

“We’re going to have both professional and student chalk artists all over Main Street. They’ll be working up from Prospect Street all the way near Lounsbury House, where the barbecue festival will be taking place,” said Whitney Williams of Squash’s, who will be handing out carrying cases of chalk to students.

“The artists are going to be from both the middle schools, the high school, Ridgefield Academy, and St. Mary’s. They will be going in all directions — down Catoonah Street, down Bailey Avenue,” Graham explained. “It’s fun to watch them as they begin to sketch out their idea and see them fill it in over time.”

Are there prompts or guidelines the artists follow during the all-day Chalk Festival?

“It’s their interpretation of spring,” Hanavan said. “And those interpretations are just so diverse and beautiful. Everyone has a different idea, and that’s what makes it work year after year.”

‘Feeling very new’

Hanavan said this year’s festival will be concentrated into one day, instead of two days as it was in previous years.

“We’ve had to cancel Friday night events, like the stilt walkers, the past two years because of weather, so I think a lot of people haven’t gotten to experience everything the Spring Stroll has to offer,” she said. “It’s all going to feel very new.”

Downtown Ridgefield merchants, who will all have stroll brochures in their stores with the times and dates of specific events, are extending the hours of this year’s festival.

“We’re going to have extended hours this year, going to 7 instead of 5,” said Graham.

“The fire engine fun at the fire department is done early for the little kids,” she explained. “Then there’s the scavenger hunt from noon to 4. They will have a passport and have to collect ‘tiger’ stamps from seven business on all corners of the downtown, from Prospect Street to Catoonah. Once they finish, they qualify to win raffle prizes.”

While all that’s going on, the balloon artists will set up shop in front of the Toy Chest (noon to 4), followed by the “strolling performers” from the Newtown Circus Club — the jugglers, unicyclists, and stilt walkers, who will around Main Street from 1 to 4.

Next up is face painting by Donatella, on the front porch of Whip and Bissell, from 2 to 5. And then the petting zoo, for ages 3 to 9, will run from 2 to 2:45 on Catoonah Street.

“The goal is to have everybody saying, ‘Wow!’ by the end of the day,” Williams said.

Music, music everywhere

It wouldn’t be a party on Main Street without music. Bach to Rock musicians are scheduled to perform for kids under 3 years old in front of town hall from noon to 12:45, followed by the Nightingales a cappella group (2 to 2:45). Bach to Rock returns with an instructor-led student band from 4 to 5:30.

DJ Jimmy will perform from 6 to 7 to close out the day.

“We start early with the young kids and then have the older kids come in later,” Williams said. “It’s a nice cycle of a day.”

The Ridgefield Playhouse will host the “Pop Music Academy Showcase” at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets may be purchased at tickets.ridgefieldplayhouse.org or by calling 203-438-5795.

Something worth sharing

The Rotary Club’s Ridgefield Gone Country barbecue festival at the Lounsbury House, which brings in thousands of guests from out of town, is the stroll’s greatest ally, organizers said.

“It’s a lovely mix,” Hanavan said. “The barbecue folks always eventually find their way into town. We end up exchanging a lot of people.”

“It’s a true unified effort,” added Belinda Lasky, who works for Lounsbury and is a Downtown Ridgefield member. “It’s one more selling point for Rotary for their event. They want the vendors to know that this is a quintessential New England town — one that has a lot going on.”

Graham, who’s both a Rotary and a Downtown Ridgefield member, insists no cannibalism takes place during the first weekend of May.

“They’re totally different events,” she said. “We’re not taking away from each other.”

Chalk quilt

What’s one event that will make this year’s stroll stand out?

“There will be a chalk quilt next to Fairfield County Bank Insurance on Catoonah,” said Williams.

“The Boys & Girls Club will have its members fill in squares, and make their own chalk art creations,” added Graham. “We want it to be as big as possible.”

In the same way as the quilt, the festival’s organizers envision the Spring Stroll growing inch by inch — square by square — in years to come.

“The Holiday Stroll is a townwide party,” Hanavan said. “We hope to build this into the same thing — a spring celebration of our town.”