SummerFest fills park, and Main Street shops (SLIDESHOW)
SummerFest and the old-fashioned sidewalk sales that started the event went pretty well this year, with Main Street left open to traffic on Saturday, July 22, as the tents, booths and tables of businesses and nonprofit groups moved from the pavement of the village’s main thoroughfare to the grass of Ballard Park.
Merchants offered differing opinions on the decision not close Main Street between Bailey Avenue and Prospect Street for a street fair, and have much of the action in Ballard Park.
"SummerFest was a huge success in the park with nearly a thousand people in attendance,” said Jennifer Zinzi, executive director of the Ridgefield Chamber of Commerce, which organizes the event each year.
“We were able to duplicate what has been a much anticipated, annual event, bringing all the elements together in one perfect location,” she said. “The feedback from all who were there was very positive ...
“We were also pleased that so many stores still had sidewalk sales offering great deals throughout town, which is how SummerFest originated."
Folks at the event Saturday did seem to enjoy it.
“It’s great. It’s a very good opportunity for us to get to know the town — we’ve only been here since January,” said Marisa Schafer of WIlton Road West, who was at the Ridgefield Historical Society’s booth in the park with her husband, Timothy Schafer.
“We were wandering around, getting to know some of the businesses,” she said. “Everybody’s so nice and welcoming.”
Emmet Delany, who was in the park enjoying the day, was impressed with the diversity of offerings at the various booths.
“It’s eclectic,” he said. “You’ve got a lot of different stuff. You’ve got a bank, chiropractors…”
“Lovin’ it — good times,” said Nicole Fry, leaving Ballard Park with a stroller in the later afternoon.
“Good for all ages,” added Laura Fry, who was with her.
‘All walks of Ridgefield’
Businesspeople in village shops also gave the day generally positive reviews.
“It went really well. It was a lot of fun,” Paige Hearon, a salesperson at The Purple Frog, said Monday. ”I got a chance to walk around town before work. It was a good chance to get to know Ridgefield.
“People from all walks of Ridgefield, that I’ve never seen before, came into the store — a lot of people came in…”
Emma Hardiman, owner of The Purple Frog, said she really appreciated the Chamber’s efforts.
“When people organize these events, it’s a great opportunity to showcase our stores.”
Susan Buzaid, who sells home furnishings and gifts at her store Olley Court, said her Main Street shop did well.
“We had a very good day, I’m just not sure if it was connected to SummerFest or not,” she said.
Her customers aren’t the usual summer street fair shoppers, she said.
“I do think it was good not having the tents in the street — because my clients could park,” Buzaid said.
“In past years when the streets have been closed off, they couldn’t access us. So, I think it was better.
Things were also busy at Lucy’s, a women’s fashion shop on Main Street.
“We did have a fabulous sidewalk sale. We were extremely busy,” said Wendy Meyer, a Lucy’s sales associate.
She didn’t work that day herself, but said co-workers reported it was a strong day for the shop.
“I think they were hoping there’d be more action on Main Street, not in the park. But we were extremely busy,” she said. “I looked at the numbers from the weekend and they were great. As far as this store’s concerned, we did a lot of business so everyone’s really happy.”
Ellen Burns of Books on the Common had the opposite perspective on the street closure, saying her store — on the corner of Main Street and Bailey Avenue, at the south end of the block that’s been closed in the past — saw business drop.
“We were disappointed with the move to Ballard Park. We enjoy the ‘street fair’ aspect of SummerFest, having Main Street become a pedestrian-only area for a day,” said Burns. ”Our sales and foot traffic were down about 23% compared to 2016, and by more than 40% compared to 2015.
“Events that take place in Ballard Park just don’t seem to translate into increased foot traffic for us,” she said. “Maybe other merchants had a different experience, but moving it Ballard Park definitely wasn’t good for us.”
Wayne Addessi of Addessi Jewelers thought Saturday’s event could have benefited from more marketing.
“Quiet morning until mid-afternoon. Street looked quiet too. Since there was little marketing, little effort on the part of Chamber, very little came of it,” he said.
Addessi Jewelers had a successful sale leading up to July 22 SummerFest.
“Our store sale was well-attended the week before, and Saturday the 15th we were insanely busy at the start of our sale. This Saturday, not so much until mid-afternoon,” Addessi said.
He thought that if merchants and the Chamber were serious about improving SummerFest, they should organize a steering committee to analyze and rethink the event.
“Honestly, the Chamber spent close to zero in marketing their event,” Addessi said.
SummerFest could benefit from “a new face, identity and effort, if there is a desire to do so,” Addessi said.