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Ridgefield has become a destination for the arts, and its students have taken notice.
Forty-one young artists will flood the sidewalks of Main Street this weekend as part of the annual Spring Stroll’s chalk festival.
They will work from noon to 4:30 p.m. Saturday, May 4, before having their work reviewed by a panel of three judges, who will hand out four cash prizes.
“We want to encourage shop locally for Mother’s Day and for upcoming graduations and weddings but what I’m most proud about this year’s Spring Stroll is the 41 kids who have signed up to come to the downtown area and create beautiful artwork,” said Ursula Hanavan, a member of the Downtown Ridgefield merchants association who owns and operates Interiors and Designs By Ursula. “Our community is really behind these students and that’s really encouraging to see, and I can’t thank their teachers enough for helping organizing what will be our best chalk festival yet...
“Last year, we had 26 students participate and this year we’ve added to that quite significantly, which is awesome,” added Hanavan, chair of the stroll’s planning committee. “We’re becoming known for our art scene here in town and we’re thrilled that the chalk festival has taken off.”
About six of the artists are coming from the middle schools and the rest are coming from the high school.
In addition to the student art work, there will be a scavenger hunt for young children. Members of the National Charity League’s Ridgefield Chapter will help stamp scavenger hunt cards, which can be collected at Squash’s, from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday.
The hunt features seven tigers — drawn by chalk artist Mark Panzarino — that will be positioned outside of various downtown storefronts.
Panzarino, who is sponsored by Fairfield County Bank, will be back Saturday to help the young artists.
“In the past, we’ve had several professional chalk artists come in and do work,” said Hanavan, “this year’s going to be a bit different as we have Mark hosting a master class for all our student artists on Saturday from 11 to 12 before they go out. He will be teaching them a little bit more about the medium and giving them some prospective ideas. ... It’ll be a really awesome lesson for the kids.
“He’s going to nurture their love of art,” she added. “We’ve made a very conscious effort to have it about the kids and have him teach them and then let them go out and create.”
Beyond the sidewalk chalk art, the Spring Stroll will feature a cadre of circus performers — stilt walkers, jugglers, cyclists, and a Hula Hoop specialist. They will parade down Main Street from 1 to 4 p.m.
“The Hula Hoop person is new this year, we’re excited to see all the tricks she can perform,” said Hanavan.
The strolling performers are from Bethel’s Circus Moves and the Newtown Circus Club. They are sponsored by the Ridgefield Playhouse, RVNA, Olley Court, Ridgefield Cleaners, 850 Degrees Wood Fired, and Books on the Common.
“There will be balloon artists and face painting, too,” said Hanavan.
The ballon artists are sponsored by Ridgefield Running Company and the Toy Chest while the face painting is sponsored by Whip Salon, Bissell Pharmacy and the Loft at Bissell’s.
“You can find them in front of those respective businesses from 1 to 4,” Hanavan said.
There will be music, too.
Bach to Rock will host an “Instrument Exploration” for kids three and older in front of town hall from 10 to 10:45 a.m.
The School of Rock will perform classic rock favorites outside of Prime Burger from 1 to 2.
The Nightingales — the high school acapella group — will be singing like they do at the Holiday Stroll in December. They will perform from 2 to 2:30 near Chez Leonard hot dog cart at 440 Main Street.
Back to Rock’s adult band will take over and play from 2:30 to 3 on the green next to Prime Burger — the same location as the live ice sculpture that takes place during the Holiday Stroll.
“We’re building on this Spring Stroll tradition, and we want it to gain traction just like the Holiday Stroll,” said Hanavan. “This really is the spring version of the Holiday Stroll, and our chalk artists and student singers are to the Spring Stroll what the horse and carriage rides are to the Holiday Stroll — we want them to be the symbol of this event.”
The student drawers will be working on Main Street and its various side streets, including Bailey Avenue, Prospect Street, and Catoonah Street.
Kids from the Boys and Girls Club will also be chalking a patchwork quilt outside of Fairfield County Bank Insurance on Catoonah Street froom noon to 3.
A little bit down the street, Jump Drum will be giving lessons next to Planet Pizza like they did last year.
“That was a big hit so they’re coming back,” said Hanavan.
That’s not the only musical lessons residents can attend Saturday.
Dancers from Fred Astaire Dance Studio will be providing dance demonstration outside of Northeast Cabinet Design on Bailey Avenue from 10 to 4.
There will also be free fencing lessons at Way of the Sword at 10:30 and 2, and a jewelry making class for all ages at the SPHERE pop-up shop on Main Street from 10 to 3 p.m.
Up the road, Ridgefield Action Committee for the Environment will be hosting a “make your own wildflower seed” demonstration from 10 to 2. At the library, the Ridgefield League of Women Voters will be hosting voter registration.
There will also be free tours at the Keeler Tavern Museum from 1 to 4.
In addition to Hanavan, the Spring Stroll planning committee consists of Kathy Graham, Lynn Vaughan, Andy Forsyth, Kim Bova, Samantha Cassano, Suzanne Bellagama Brennan, Hilary Micalizzi, Megan Searfoss, MaryBeth Prunty, Kristin Fedders, Terri Garlick, and Whitney Williams.
Downtown Ridgefield would like to give a special thanks to art teachers Michael Rivera, Hillary Lewis, Jenny Hench, Jane Harris, Deborah Chodd, and Lisa Liebowitz.
“The teachers get a ton of credit — they recruited the students to make this all possible,” said Hanavan. “Samantha Cassano organized everybody and did a lot of communication with the teachers.”
Williams — owner of Squash’s on Main Street — will provide the chalk. Ridgefield Supply is supplying the knee pads for the artists. Planet Pizza is supplying lunch for the students.
West Lane Inn is putting Panzarino up for the weekend — free of charge, and Hanavan’s design shop will decorate the lampposts with the help from the Boys and Girls Club
“We couldn’t do this without the support of our volunteers and Downtown Ridgefield business associates,” Hanavan said. “The teamwork that goes into an event like this is what makes it worth it.”