Celebrate Mansfield Festival
In 2003, the Mansfield Downtown Partnership’s Advertising and Promotion Committee was looking for ways to promote the Partnership and its efforts in creating Storrs Center. Committee members at the time saw an opportunity for a community-wide event that would do just that. After many planning meetings and conversations with planners of other community events in the area, the Advertising and Promotion Committee developed the following mission statement:
Create a festival for Mansfield residents and University of Connecticut students that celebrates the best of Mansfield including art, music, entertainment, food, games, and activities while promoting Storrs Center businesses and the proposed new town center.
In 2004, the Committee’s hard work culminated in the first Festival on the Green, so named in recognition of the goal of a new town green as part of the proposed Storrs Center.
Local businesses and organizations were recruited to help “Celebrate Mansfield” in September, but the Festival faced a truly stormy start as Hurricane Ivan made its way up the East Coast in the days leading up to the inaugural event. Festival sub-committee chair Betsy Paterson recalls “sitting with Cynthia van Zelm at WILI as Wayne Norman spoke to all of his weather contacts on the East Coast, trying to get an accurate picture of what the weather would be like that weekend. We decided to delay the Festival by one day. Wayne assured us by Sunday the weather would be fine – and he was right! It was a bit cold and windy, but there was no rain.”
Since that first year, the Festival on the Green has continued to grow, in both the number of activities and the number of attendees. Community members look forward to this fun gathering that features attractions for all ages. Some events, like the Celebrate Mansfield Parade (formerly the “Bikes, Tykes, and Trikes” Parade) are annual happenings that draw loyal participants. Other events evolve as the sub-committee reviews the success of each Festival and tweaks events to appeal to residents, students, and visitors. Each year, thousands of people converge on the future site of Storrs Center and enjoy the best of Mansfield.
In 2010, CT Main Street Center announced that the Mansfield Downtown Partnership won its Annual Award of Excellence in the category “Special Event” for the annual Festival on the Green! According to the CT Main Street Center’s announcement, the Awards of Excellence program “annually celebrate[s] and communicate[s] the most successful and innovative efforts in main street revitalization in Connecticut.” The program recognizes contributions in areas such as image enhancement, retail promotion, special events, and community-consensus building (for which the Partnership received an award in 2008).
“Our special event category is annually one of our most competitive. CT Main Street downtowns hold creative events that are well planned and draw upon local history and culture,” explains Kimberley Parsons-Whitaker, Associate Director of CT Main Street Center. “Mansfield Downtown Partnership’s Festival on the Green is wonderfully unique and our awards jury loved it! From the piece of sod that signified ‘the green’ of the future, to the activities for all ages, this event clearly is meant to create and sustain enthusiasm for Storrs Center.”
In 2014, the Mansfield Downtown Partnership's annual festival debuted both a new location, the new Town Square, and a new name, Celebrate Mansfield Festival! The Partnership's Festival subcommittee chose to rename the event to better reflect its role, a celebration for the Mansfield community of the people, businesses, and attractions that make the town unique, and to better coordinate with the Celebrate Mansfield Parade, an important part of the day's festivities.
At the 2016 Celebrate Mansfield Festival, Mansfield Mayor Paul Shapiro announced that the Town Council had officially renamed the Town Square as "Betsy Paterson Square." This fitting tribute recognizes Betsy Paterson's many years of service to the Town of Mansfield, first as a Town Council member, then as the longest-serving Mayor in the Town's history. In her role as Mayor, Ms. Paterson was instrumental in creating the Mansfield Downtown Partnership and in developing Storrs Center. And, since 2003, she has served as the Chair of the Partnership's Festival subcommittee.
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