BRISTOL BOROUGH >> Thousands jammed the streets of the borough on Saturday as the town celebrated its rich and storied past.
Organized by the Bristol Cultural and Historical Foundation, this year’s Historic Bristol Day began under cloudy skies, which slowly brightened throughout the morning into a beautiful fall afternoon of color and excitement.
From the Bristol Wharf, where people were waiting in line to board the tall ship Gazela, to Radcliffe Street, where vendors and community organizations lined the streets, to the Snyder-Girotti Elementary School where the day’s car show was revving up its engines, the borough bustled with activity.
On the waterfront, visitors enjoyed a small town band concert by the Bracken Alumni Drum & Bugle Corps. Earlier, Drummers With Attitude played for the crowds. Nearby, a small group gathered to experience a Revolutionary War encampment presented by a New Jersey Regiment.
Behind the Bristol Riverside Theatre, food vendors were busy from the start of the event to its conclusion selling everything from crab cakes to pork barbecue whipped up by Bristol’s own Chuck’s BBQ.
Many found benches and open grassy spots along the waterfront to enjoy their lunch while watching the Historic Bristol Day Regatta skim across the Delaware River. The Regatta was organized by the Anchor Yacht Club.
Up on Radcliffe Street, hundreds browsed by the many vendor tables and community organizations lining the street. Among the groups taking part were Bristol American Legion Veterans Sal Arena Jr. and Albert Lalli along with Sharon Lalli, president of the Ladies Auxiliary.
The Legionnaires were busy handing out poppies in exchange for donations to assist disabled and hospitalized veterans. In just a few hours they had handed out more than 300 poppies, all handmade by veterans as part of their therapeutic rehabilitation.
Checking out the crowds on Radcliffe was Nick Rizzo, who led this year’s Historic Bristol Day Committee. He was understandably thrilled by the turnout after some anxiety with the weather at the start of the day.
“The weather is finally cooperating,” he said, the relief evident in his voice. “We’re very pleased with the crowd. It’s great to see everyone enjoying themselves.”
Rizzo said by far the star attraction of the day was the Tall Ship Gazela, which hosted hundreds, if not more than a 1,000 visitors on Saturday at Bristol’s new docks.
“The House Tour was another big success this year,” he said with ticket sales exceeding expectations. “We’re very pleased.” The tour included four homes on Radcliffe Street and one on Jefferson Avenue.
The day also include an archaeological dig at the Bristol Friends Meeting, a re-enactment by St. Mark’s students in the parish cemetery, a children’s corner at the Grundy Library and the annual Historic Bristol Day Tea.
The foundation spends close to a year planning the event, which features activities throughout town all designed to shine a spotlight on the history of the town, which dates back more than 300 years.
“Looking around today I’m seeing a lot of happy people,” said Rizzo. “The sun is finally shining. It’s turning out to be another great day for Bristol.”