Promising of a good time, it is hard to figure out what will make the EnvisionFest planned for late September a “unique experience,” as Eric Daniels, Governor Malloy’s appointee to the iQuilt Partnership Board, called it. Currently, the event seems like a warm(er)-weather version of Hartford’s First Night, where many arts and cultural venues open their doors to showcase what the city has to offer.
On Thursday afternoon, wedged between music by Ed Fast & Conga Bop, Mayor Segarra, Ed Daniels, and Kristina Newman-Scott, Director of MECA, spoke to what EnvisionFest would include. Though the announcements said that all events will be free, this is not entirely true. Bike Walk Connecticut’s Discover Hartford Bicycling and Walking Tour, an annual event, will kick off the EnvisionFest on September 29, but there is a registration fee for participants. And while we know Mayor Segarra must work out, it sounds like he remains noncommittal about getting back on a bike, joking that he would stand in front of his house and hand out water to cyclists, despite saying that he likes to “be an active participant.”
Included in the day’s planned events is another opportunity as wasted as a mayor refusing to rock the spandex: an all day dance party using corporate radio (Clear Channel). Hartford has several independent radio stations, including WRTC and WWUH, which are invested in the community in ways that commercial radio never will or can be.
With that said, locations and performances remain subject to change, something event planners might think about if this event is truly designed to showcase what Hartford has to offer.
With the exception of the attempt to beat the Guinness World Record for largest Zumba class with a live samba band, most of EnvisionFest is nothing more than the coordination of already existing events, though that kind of planning is a feat in itself.
In a time when branding, re-branding and marketing are continuously making the news, nobody should be surprised when events are as much about packaging as content.
There will be tours of the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch, quilting at the Charter Oak Cultural Center, and a scavenger hunt by the Architectural Resource Center of New Haven. Sea Tea Improv and others will perform outside of Hartford Stage. The Hartford Symphony Orchestra will bring highbrow music to the masses. Jazz, world music, busking, gospel music, frisbee, bocce, face painting, meditation, and puppets are all included in the day’s plans.
For those who enjoyed the pop-up art studio on Pratt Street, there are plans to do something similar using temporary onsite storage containers. Mayor Segarra said that besides arts and culture, there will be technology on display.
Both the Wadsworth Atheneum and the Connecticut Science Center will offer free admission.
Meanwhile, Pipes in the Valley Celtic Festival, an event of Riverfront Recapture, will be happening all day long.
EnvisionFest is “a creation from the iQuilt Project,” which they describe as “a culture-based urban design plan for downtown Hartford that aims to integrate its cultural sites and institutions.” In a press conference, it was described as citywide, yet the fact sheet states that “[a]ll EnvisionFest activities will take place along the GreenWalk and new routes connecting the State Capitol, historic Bushnell Park, downtown streets, and Constitution Plaza.” With the exception of the State Capitol, all of those areas are in downtown. One criticism made of the iQuilt Project has been that it focuses entirely on the central business district while ignoring the neighborhoods’ needs and cultural institutions.
Organizers are hoping the EnvisionFest will attract over 25,000 visitors on September 28th and 29th. Expect to hear more as details are ironed out.