One of Connecticut’s biggest holiday traditions is moving. Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra announced today the Festival of Light will move to Bushnell Park after 46 years on Constitution Plaza.
The big news for the new venue? The Festival will also feature a skating rink. There was a rink about ten years ago that drew thousands of people to the Capitol lawn and turned a dark and dreary part of the park into a lively family spot. Kara and I were there frequently that winter.
I used to be on the board of the Bushnell Park Foundation and think the park is the perfect location for a holiday festival. The views of the Capitol, Arch and skyline will be enhanced by a Christmas tree, lighted trees and decorations. The city might want to think of bringing in some horse drawn carriages and food vendors, and see if the Carousel can be opened. For the long term, the city should look into reclaiming the Park River that runs under the park.
The move makes plenty of sense. Constitution Plaza isn’t what it used to be. The Summit/Clarion/Sonesta Hotel has been closed for 15 years, and the last time one our crews went in there they learned it was inhabited alright, but not by anything you’d want to spend the night with. The site of our old home Broadcast House is now a big empty pit. Plans to build a high rise there are on hold right now because of the economy. To have the celebration at Constitution Plaza would essentially turn the Festival of Light into the Festival of Blight.
Who is paying for this? The Greater Hartford Arts Council, The Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, and the Connecticut Whale. Title sponsors of the event are Connecticut Light & Power, Mohegan Sun and United Technologies.
I saw signs on the carousel building indicating that there will be some holiday festivities happening there, so I would not be surprised if it’s running for at least some hours during the season. When the park is covered in snow, it appears as the perfect New England postcard. It’s truly a great location for this.