MANSFIELD – Nearly 3,000 people gathered on a sunny Sunday afternoon in Storrs Center to celebrate the best of Mansfield and promote more than 100 local businesses with art, music, entertainment, and food.
Visitors lined up along the sidewalk to watch more than 700 people from community organizations, local businesses, and UConn sports teams and clubs parade down Storrs Road and into the center.
Mansfield Mayor Paul Shapiro (D) says he thinks the day was “just perfect” and that downtown Storrs has become a great gathering place for residents.
“First and foremost, it’s a place where people of all ages [can gather] – whether they’re UConn students, younger folks, young children, and retired people (seniors) – everybody’s together here. That’s the way it is today and that’s the way it is pretty much any day.”
Shapiro also says the center is “wonderful” and that it is something the town has “never had before.”
This year marks the 14th annual Celebrate Mansfield Festival, but it is the 4th time the event has taken place in Storrs Center’s Betsy Paterson Square.
The festival features a wide variety of activity booths hosted by town businesses, community organizations, and UConn sports teams and clubs.
The Mansfield Downtown Partnership started the celebration in 2003 in an effort to bring town and university community members together.
The Partnership – a non-profit organization comprised of the Town of Mansfield, UConn, businesses, and residents – focuses on the development, management, and promotion of downtown Storrs.
Kathleen Paterson, who manages the Partnership’s communications and special projects, says having the festival in Storrs Center helps foster a better a sense of community among otherwise separated people.
“When you have a community booth, and you’re here and the preschool’s next door to… the natural history museum, maybe there’s some connections that can made made, and people who maybe wouldn’t come out are going to come out and see friends and stuff.”
A Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania native, Paterson has lived in Mansfield for 14 years and worked with the Downtown Partnership for 10. She says she likes being near UConn because she gets to be around a lot of people while still living in a rural area.
Aside from town residents, many of this year’s 230 festival volunteers were also UConn students, Paterson says.
Abby Pomeroy, a who represents the school’s Pan-Hellenic Council, says she and other councilwomen came to support the town.
“I think it’s really important to give back because they [the Town of Mansfield] do give us a lot in terms of letting us be in their town and letting us participate in all their kind of stuff. I think it’s really important to show them that we appreciate all that they do.”
The 5th-semester pathobiology and veterinary science major says students who come to the event get a “more overall experience” of what the Mansfield community is.
“There are a lot of really dedicated people who really want to make their community shine and I think this event really showcases that. There’s a lot of organizations that I didn’t even know existed as well,” Pomeroy says. “Through the sign-ups I saw a lot of different organizations that I didn’t know were here. So, it’s also a great way to kind of figure out what organizations you can get involved in on campus.”
Daniela Doncel and Jareliz Diaz contributed reporting.