NEW MILFORD — Music, crafts, vendors and artisan pop-ups will fill New Milford’s waterfront and downtown Saturday afternoon and evening for the inaugural New Milford RiverFest celebration.
The new festival is the culmination of months of work by the town’s Riverfront Revitalization Committee to better tie the Housatonic River to downtown proper to help attract more residents and visitors to the area.
The celebration starts at noon and will go until 9:30 p.m. including live music, local food trucks and vendors, arts and crafts, environmental education and a beer and wine garden.
“We wanted to be able to bring people down to the riverfront to see what a wonderful asset it is to the town, therefore RiverFest was born,” said Liba Furhman, former mayor and chairwoman of the revitalization committee.
At 1 p.m., officials will host a tour of the riverfront and downtown on the committee’s first of three new walking loops designed to highlight different aspects of the town, Furhman said. The first 50 walkers of all ages to sign up for the one-mile walk will receive free t-shirts.
The so-called “Downtown to the River Loop” is supposed to showcase the town’s natural resources and their proximity to downtown — the essence of the town’s pitch to prospective businesses and would-be tourists, leaders have said. “Industrial” and historical walking loops are also in the works.
The town already has completed a series of beautification projects in the area and last week approved about $80,000 as part of a capital projects list to extend the sidewalk along Patriots Way to complete that downtown loop, Mayor Pete Bass said.
The hope is that showing off downtown will encourage more residents to spend time there and attract more visitors, he said. That in turn will bring more would-be customers downtown and attract more shops and businesses, which in could draw more interest to the area that can feed on itself, he said.
“We hope RiverFest will encourage more people to come enjoy our downtown, which our businesses will like,” he said. “It’s all in a positive light to showcase our wonderful town.”
Admission to RiverFest is free, but organizers are asking for $5 donations to help offset the costs of hosting the event with sponsors Kimberly-Clark, Savings Bank of Danbury and the Western Connecticut Health Network.
Organizers also are still accepting last-minute additions to the food and shop vendors, so interested businesses can email email@example.com for more information, Furhman said.
“It’s a first time event, so the more successful this is the more we can build on it for future years,” she said. “All this is leading up to (the committee) putting together a master plan for the area that will incorporate connections to the downtown and would really bring economic and recreational opportunities.”