Festival of Lights 2010-2011 to be a Breath of Cold, Fresh Air

Finally, the City is stepping away from the tradition of lighting desolate Constitution Plaza. This year, they will be decorating Bushnell Park, used by families and residents. The City of Hartford has sent the following press release:

A beloved 47-year-old holiday tradition in the City of Hartford is getting reinvigorated thanks to a strengthened public-private partnership. The Hartford Festival of Light® is moving to historic Bushnell Park from Constitution Plaza in order to add a new interactive family feature— an outdoor skating rink.

“Skating in the park will make ringing in the holiday season more than a day in the Capital City, it will be an experience for residents and visitors alike to enjoy over and over again,” said Hartford Mayor Pedro E. Segarra. “By working with our team of gracious partners, we’ll be able to have Santa’s helpers in his workshop start building the rink the day after Thanksgiving so that families can enjoy the facility for approximately four weeks.”

The more centrally located venue for the event will make it more accessible to the Theatre and entertainment district and restaurants.

The event begins November 26th.

Updates: one, two, and three.

Update: Photos of the 2010-2011 Festival of Light display and times for skating.

Update: Info for Festival of Lights 2011-2012 (now called Winterfest)

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Fulfilling Your Materialistic Desires for the Holiday Season

Already stores are beginning to stock Christmas items. Readers who wish to participate should know that this post is an unabashed effort to steer you away from the strip malls and toward fueling a more local economy and/or supporting smaller businesses. This list reflects my taste, though not always my paycheck(s). Some possibilities may have been accidentally omitted; others were very intentionally omitted.

Crafts, Arts, and the Bazaar

Every year the All Saints Orthodox Church on Scarborough Street holds its Russian Tea Room and Bazaar. It may be too early to consider holiday shopping in early November, but this is an opportunity to find gifts like nesting dolls, jewelery, jewelery boxes, and more. If you’d rather just fill your gullet, there will be blini, vareniki, borscht, and other Russian foods. They typically have tours of the church, though the craft fair and food are located in the basement of the building.  This year’s festival goes from November 5th through November 7th. Admission is free and there will be activities for children.

Jewelery by Ellen Rosenberg at the Sugarloaf Craft Festival
Jewelery by Ellen Rosenberg at the Sugarloaf Craft Festival

From November 12-14th the Sugarloaf Craft Festival will be back in town. I attended this back in March when they were last here and was pleasantly surprised by the quality of arts and crafts. There will be over 200 artisans from around the country displaying their work at the Connecticut Expo Center. There is a wide range of work — from furniture to wind chimes to olive oil — so people of modest income are not instantly priced out. There will be paper art, baskets, clothing, paintings, ceramics, photography, soap, wall sculptures, food, items for children, and more.

Besides shopping, you can watch craft demonstrations including iron forging and copper spinning. Some of these demonstrations will be interactive.

Check back on Real Hartford as the date of the event draws near, as we will be having a small ticket giveaway.

If you still feel like ogling arts and crafts that weekend, on November 13th and 14th, Hartford will be holding its Open Studio Weekend. This year’s Open Studio Weekend seems…together. Admittedly, I am a sucker for full color glossy brochures which lend the sense of organization to a happening. It gives me confidence that the event will happen, that it’s not just thrown together at the last minute. This year, given the vast number of artists participating in the event, the brochure seems necessary if one is to navigate the weekend’s options with any success. Here is a sampling of the wares that will be on display and for sale: clay jewelery, pottery, handmade books, photography, pastels, acrylics, stenciled and dyed clothing, knits, tiles, beads, Lucite jewelery, silk-screened clothing, fiber, mixed media, book binding, sculpture, wooden bowls, crochet, wire, leather, oil paintings, felted wool, fused glass, mirrors, greeting cards, pencil and watercolor, pen and ink, ceramics, and more. Many of these displays are at ArtSpace, but others are located in other spots like 30 Arbor Street, Billings Forge, and the Institute for Community Research. Besides goods to purchase, there will be jazz, blues, funk, acoustic guitar, salsa, and classical musical performances. There will be dance, poetry, and films to view. To find out exact times and venues, go to the Open Studio Hartford site.


Hartford Denim Company
Hartford Denim Company Photo: Luke Davis

Hartford Denim Company creates handcrafted jeans and belts, and has a workshop at 75 Pratt Street, Suite 500. Their website has contact info and photos of their products. In the recent Hooker Day Parade they carried yards of denim overhead. Fun people, they are, if a bit irregular, like their hours. I was warned to call ahead (860) 356-6896 to ensure someone would be at the workshop. Their off-the-rack jeans start at $200 and custom jeans begin at $300. Continue reading “Fulfilling Your Materialistic Desires for the Holiday Season”

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The Obsession with Destruction

Photo: Gergely Karacsonyi
Photo: Gergely Karacsonyi

As I walked home from work yesterday I passed a camera crew for a local news station. Another station was perched in the same spot on Monday. What possible footage are they hoping from at an elementary school?

A child allegedly brought a knife and a BB gun to that school recently after the student had endured bullying. A school that was entirely ignored before this was suddenly placed in the spotlight. The treatment of this story was predictable: focus on the individual and ignore any real discussion of why someone might find the need to protect himself in an environment where children should expect to feel safe.

All of the recent headlines from the Hartford Courant have equal negative weight. The stories are about robberies, murders, and the demolition of a building. Not a single story contains any depth. Instead of investigating the root of any of these issues, the media provide a shallow overview that leaves the readers and viewers with the same conclusions: Hartford is violent and blighted.

The media — mainstream and so-called alternative — are obsessed with destruction. More and more I turn to sources like The Hartford News because, despite having blowhard columnists, they at least cover the spectrum of experience in the city. In this week’s edition of that paper, the photo above the fold is colorful. The purple and white is attention grabbing. As I read the caption, I learn that the photograph was of  a procession that “drew thousands of Peruvians.” Below the fold is a smaller photo from the same event; this one features a radiant woman holding an enormous array of flowers. Though this event may not remotely reflect my own culture, it intrigues me. From the way it was portrayed this was a positive event that impacted thousands of people. This was in the middle of blurbs about a Vintage Base Ball fundraiser, a community spelling bee, a harvest celebration, a rally for Republican candidates, a reminder about the Hooker Day Parade, a discussion on domestic violence, and a profile of a third party candidate for U.S. Representative. The most negative story in this set — one related to domestic violence — avoids the bad news trap by being for a community discussion on the topic. What do all of these events have in common? They encourage civic and community participation. They represent the diversity of experience.

Contrast this with the other way that Hartford continues to be portrayed: violent and blighted. The message: the only solution is to knock it down, both literally and figuratively.

Here is what I am asking for: depth. Continue reading “The Obsession with Destruction”

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Casa Linda: October 26, 2010

Welcome to the big, bad North End. This cute home, with gorgeous foliage, color scheme, and white picket fence, is located in the Blue Hills neighborhood, one of the several neighborhoods that compose Hartford’s North side. If one were to take this street to the end, traverse the Weaver High track, one street, railroad tracks and river,  she would find herself on the University of Hartford campus, which is also located in the Blue Hills neighborhood; the University of Hartford is not in the West End, as some claim. Geographically, nothing in Hartford is tremendously far from anything else.

Although this particular house was not one I looked at during the house hunt (I don’t believe it was for sale), I looked at others nearby. Many of the streets in this neighborhood could easily pass at those in Manchester, Newington, Bloomfield, or Windsor. It’s fairly quiet, save for all the elementary school children boarding buses or walking home mid-afternoon. Nobody tried selling me drugs any of the times I was in the area. I never saw any weapons. I never heard gunshots. It hardly appeared to be a war zone, as some make it out to be.

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The name brings me back to childhood when I watched Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom more than a child probably should. I was horrified by the scene of a man having his heart ripped from his chest, yet I watched it every time.

The hartFEAST on November 11, in spite of its name, will be nothing like that. Instead of destruction, this is about creation. This is the first in a monthly series of events sponsored by the Center Without Walls.

A press release sent by Councilperson Cotto states:

The concept of FEAST (Funding Emerging Art with Sustainable Tactics) got its start in Brooklyn and has spread throughout the nation.  It is a recurring public dinner designed to use community-driven financial support to democratically fund new and emerging community builders. At each hartFEAST, participants pay a sliding-scale entrance fee for which they receive a supper and a ballot. Diners vote on a variety of community building & art projects and at the end of the night, the project with the most votes is awarded funds to produce the project.

This seems like a refreshing alternative to the typically opaque process used for awarding grants.

The evening’s meal will also be an alternative to the norm. Dinner will be created by Four Fields Farm, using additional ingredients from Holcomb Farm CSA, Cato Corner Farm, Griffin Farmstead, and the newly established Hartford Baking Company. String Theorie will provide entertainment for the evening.

This event starts at seven in the Sacred Heart Church basement located at 49 Winthrop Street. The suggested entry fee is $15, though it is noted that this is a flexible number and people can pay less money if they can not afford the fifteen dollars.

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Sing, Sing a Song

A friend used to rearrange her work schedule so that she would be able to watch each new episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. At the time I thought this was silly and perhaps a case of not prioritizing well, but now I realize that I should have trusted her judgment, as she was the one who turned me on to ‘Rent. Except for a few early episodes of Buffy, my knowledge of the show is minimal. I had seen the film and rejected the series because there was a change in lead actor. After Wednesday, I have been obsessing over making up for lost time.

Last week, locals gathered for a showing of “Once More, With Feeling” and Dr. Horrible’s Singalong Blog at the Pumphouse Gallery in Bushnell Park. A screen was set up inside the building where the public was able to enjoy both episodes at no cost. Even though it was the middle of October and I kept my jacket on the entire time, it was not unbearably cold. To be honest, I have been colder in the Real Art Ways cinema during winter, and I had to pay to see that film.

Just one more thing to do in a place where there is allegedly nothing to do.

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Hooker Day Parade 2010

Given the name of the parade, one would expect it would be more about something like this:

than something like this:

The Hooker Day Parade — a celebration of Thomas Hooker, who founded Hartford — was revived two years ago, called off last year, and returned strong today. The parade route is tight, only covering a few blocks, which gives people time to run a few blocks over to catch more candy and necklaces.

You can judge for yourself how well Mayor Segarra resembles Thomas Hooker.

The Hartford Denim Company carried yards and yards of material.

Pucky is not the most intimidating mascot for hockey. The Wolfpack mascot was at the parade too, perhaps its final year participating?

There are more photos of today’s parade on my Photobucket page.

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Dear Search Engine,

I check blog statistics not so much to see what the numbers are, but to find out how people manage to wind up here. Mostly, the routes to Real Hartford are not all that surprising, but sometimes, there are winners. For example, someone earlier this year asked the Google Magic Eight Ball:

how do you know when a tail light is out?

Photo: Sergeant Killjoy                                                    http://www.flickr.com/photos/doc_bosco/
Photo: Sergeant Killjoy http://www.flickr.com/photos/doc_bosco/

What an excellent question! First, one must be able to know when the tail light is not out. When it works, you see light. When it is out, there is no light. But how can you figure this out if you are the one driving? Well, you can do one of a few things. You can sit in the vehicle while a trusted friend stands behind it, or you can stand behind the vehicle while the friend is inside. If you live in an area where getting out of a vehicle with keys in the ignition is an option, then you can go stand behind your own car. Please note that I am not an automotive specialist and these instructions are incomplete. I think your mechanic would love a phone call from you asking just this question. When she stops laughing at you, I am sure she will provide more detailed directions. You can also not worry yourself about such things and wait for the police to let you know. They will do this and give you a ticket at the same time. But, because you even had to ask this question, I’m not sure you deserve to drive.

Moving on. Continue reading “Dear Search Engine,”

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Casa Linda: October 19, 2010

The front yard of this house is immaculate. I frequently pass this property and have yet to see a piece of litter. The homeowner is obviously dedicated to maintaining his property.

Continue reading “Casa Linda: October 19, 2010”

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