Despite the rain, Greenwich still parties

John Ferris Robben Legendary musician James Taylor, above, was the headlining act for the Greenwich Town Party as residents braved the wind, rain and other conditions far more suited for October than May. But the show went on and a good time was reported by all. All photos taken by John Ferris Robben.

John Ferris Robben
Legendary musician James Taylor, above, was the headlining act for the Greenwich Town Party as residents braved the wind, rain and other conditions far more suited for October than May. But the show went on and a good time was reported by all. All photos taken by John Ferris Robben.

The skies might have opened up for a downpour or two, but nothing could dampen the spirits of the third annual Greenwich Town Party last Saturday.

A sold-out crowd of town residents packed Roger Sherman Baldwin Park for an all-day concert and festival that featured James Taylor, Blues Traveler and Michael Franti and Spearhead as the headlining acts. But it wasn’t just the music that attracted residents to the party, it was also face painting for the kids, performers ranging from clowns on stilts to basketball tricks and a competition to see who has the best barbecue in the area.

The Greenwich Town Party is now a staple in town, taking place on Memorial Day weekend as an unofficial kickoff to summer. It is not a town event, but rather one done by private residents with the full backing of town government. For those wondering if there will be a return in 2014, organizers assured the Post that it is going to happen.

This year the weather threw a curveball, with the sun making only a few brief cameos and a steady drizzle turning into strong showers on a few occasions. This forced a few concessions to the elements — from the minor, lifting the previous years’ bans on umbrellas, to the major, the cancellation of the satellite event planned for Greenwich Avenue — but in the end the party was able to go on all afternoon and into the night, delighting the crowd, who didn’t mind getting a little wet to have some fun.

Even in the rain, residents danced and cheered to the music and the sold-out event had approximately 4,500 people still in attendance when Mr. Taylor closed out the show with a set beginning at 8:30 p.m. Throughout the day there was music and prizes, including four tickets for this weekend’s New York Yankees/Boston Red Sox showdown with first place on the line. Greenwich celebrities Gary Dell’Abate, producer of The Howard Stern Show, and Bill Evans, the weatherman for both WABC-TV and WPLJ radio, served as emcees for the event along with Jeff Weber, the owner of WGCH radio, which provided a simulcast of major portions of the party.

Greenwich comedienne Jane Condon, one half of the duo responsible for the Post’s Our Life cartoons, also took to the stage, as did First Selectman Peter Tesei. There were prizes to be handed out as cooks from all over the area took part in the BBQ Grill Off. The 2013 People’s Choice award was given to Bobby Q’s Bodacious BBQ, which won both the pulled pork and BBQ chicken categories, meaning they took home two $3,000 checks. JC’s Wicked BBQ won second place in both categories and was awarded two checks for $1,500, and the third-place prizes of $500 apiece were shared by Handsome Devil and Big Head Ed BBQ.

Greenwich resident Ray Dalio, the man responsible for starting the Greenwich Town Party to foster community togetherness in the style of both the old-fashioned block parties and the European festivals he and his family enjoy, even came out to address the crowd before Mr. Taylor closed the show.

“This event was organized around the notion of ‘community spirit’ and ‘mutual generosity,’ with many residents and local businesses pitching in to bring the Greenwich Town Party to life,” event organizers said in a press release on Tuesday.

The only disappointment of the day was the cancellation of the Greenwich Town Party Rocks the Avenue event, which was set to debut this year to great fanfare. While the stage at Roger Sherman Baldwin Park could be covered, protecting the musicians and, more importantly, the electric equipment needed to play, the event to be held in the parking lot of the Havemeyer Building had no such luck.

Calling it the hardest decision they ever had to make, party organizers said, “This decision was made in the best interest of safety for bands, vendors, and attendees of this extension event.”

But this year’s cancellation isn’t going to deter plans for next year’s events, when the town party will once again attempt to “rock” Greenwich Avenue. The goal of the satellite event was to provide people who weren’t able to get tickets the chance to enjoy the fun with a free event with local bands, food and family activities. And while the rain made it impossible, plans are already under way to try it again next summer. Town resident Scott Weicker, who has helped organize the party all three years, said there would “absolutely” be a satellite location next year.

The extension of the town party was done to try get more people involved and to provide some support for local businesses. This year the tickets to the Greenwich Town Party sold out literally in minutes, giving people the feeling that if they blinked they missed their chance. While party organizers do face the restriction of the maximum occupancy allowed for Roger Sherman Baldwin Park, the issue will be looked at as plans are developed for the 2014 Greenwich Town Party.

“The Greenwich Town Party is always looking at ways to improve all processes, including ticketing and the selling of a limited number of tickets,” Mr. Weicker told the Post in an email. “The Roger Sherman Baldwin Park has a capacity limit of 5,000 attendees, and with over 60,000 Greenwich residents we will never be able to accommodate all residents who want tickets.”

But with a little bit better weather, next year’s attempts to expand the town party and bring more people into the fun should be a go, and residents are already looking forward for the next chance to party.

 

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