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Summer in the City, So Far

We’ve been having a blast at the 2018 Summer in the City events, so as a re-cap of some of the events we had the chance to catch up with a few of the event organizers to learn more about the history and what they look forward to in the future. In this post you’ll hear from Riverfront Recapture’s Mike Zaleski on the annual Fireworks Celebration, James Varano, the mind behind the Black Eyed and Blues Festival, and Desmond Sinclair of this weekend’s West Indian Independence Celebration.

GHAC: What role did you have in the beginning of your event versus the role you play now?

DS: [I] first got involved with a costume group in 1987. In 2000, I was elected Treasurer and then President in 2017.

MZ: As a kid growing up in the area, I remember coming to the river to watch the fireworks. I remember being in awe of the sound and the colors reflecting off of the water. When I joined Riverfront as the new CEO, Riverfront Fireworks was something I wanted to make sure continued. With support from Summer in the City, we have been able to keep that tradition alive.

JV: It was my idea to do a blues festival in Hartford – I saw how successful it was in other cities and said, “why not here?”


GHAC: Why do you think people keep coming back?

DS: The mission to educate and share the rich heritage and culture of all Caribbean Nations, and our free concert after the parade helps as well.

MZ: This year I spoke with three women who arrived at 3:15 to save their spot, and spots for their kids and grandchildren, on the Founders Bridge. They took turns walking around and ordering dinner, they ate together at 7 and watched the fireworks sitting in the same spot, with the same friends, just like they have every year as long as they can remember.


GHAC: Why do you think this event is important to Hartford?

DS: It helps revitalize Hartford, increase business partnerships and strengthen our community. The festivities attract attendees from across Connecticut as well as tourists from neighboring states.

MZ: There is never a shortage of events in Hartford. On any given day you’ll find something happening in our parks, in Bushnell Park, or at TheaterWorks…the list goes on and on. But the significant events supported by Summer in the City showcase our city’s diversity and genuinely represent the many cultures of our city.

JV: It is an event that draws a diverse demographic – from local Hartford folks to people in the outer suburbs and beyond.


GHAC: What are you looking forward to in the future?

JV: The future looks good – we have gotten marketing support, being part of the Summer in the City featured events.

DS: Continuing to grow and develop our partnerships with local governments and businesses through diversity. Our goal is to improve our ability to showcase our rich heritage culture and attract major Caribbean sponsors to make the link between Greater Hartford and the Caribbean.

MZ: We continue to look for ways to make the fireworks and surrounding programming more exciting, and more attractive to visitors to our parks. I’m looking forward to many more years of fireworks, and hopefully seeing those same three grandmothers saving seats on the bridge in 2019.

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Summer in the City, which is made possible by United Technologies, is a program of the Greater Hartford Arts Council, in partnership with the City of Hartford.

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