By ANDREA SUOZZO
BRISTOL — The air was cool, Main Street was cleared of cars and the town of Bristol was thumping with the beat of local bands this past Saturday at the first annual Pocock Rocks festival. The festival, captioned “Bristol’s Previously Pocock Street Fair,” showcased local music, food and businesses in a celebration of the town and its history.
Organizers at the Bristol Downtown Community Partnership estimate Saturday’s turnout at between 1,500 and 2,000 people. The Partnership, had spent 12-16 months planning the festival, which celebrates the town’s history by using Bristol’s original name. The town was founded in 1762 as Pocock, but its name was changed to Bristol in 1789.
“We wanted a signature event. And since we’re an organization that supports the downtown businesses, we wanted to have it in the heart of downtown,” said Carol Wells, the executive director of the BDCP.
Accordingly, the group closed off Main Street to automotive traffic and set up a series of booths and demonstrations, as well as a stage with musicians.
Wells stood at the central booth looking out at the final product of this extensive planning period, at the lines of stands run by local businesses and at the streams of people eating, shopping and listening to music.
“We can bring people into Bristol, let them know (about) all the great shops and businesses. Hopefully they’ll decide to come back,” said Wells.
Blacksmith Lee Beckwith, a Bristol resident of 17 years, was busy at his stand on Main Street. His wares were laid out on the table, ranging from iron hooks to decorative curtain rods. Behind the table was a small array of equipment, which he used to demonstrate his work to fascinated passersby.
“I’ve gotten a lot of interest, sold a lot of stuff,” he said. “And I’ve gotten some people who are probably going to commission me.”
The publicity was welcome, because blacksmithing is what he loves. “My other gig is as a horseshoer,” he said, “but I like to do stuff that lasts.”
Mark Magiera, the brewmaster at Bobcat Café, recreated one of his older brews, the Pocock Pilsner, for the occasion. After he signed on to create the special brew and to give tours of his one-room basement brewery, Bobcat chefs Erin Chamoff and Sanderson Wheeler were inspired to follow Magiera’s lead. Though the restaurant normally serves dinner, they decided to open for lunch with a limited menu. The offerings: two types of panini made with local ingredients.
When asked how business was going, Magiera replied, “Rockin’!” and pointed to the bar, where people stood two deep in places. “And all the tables were full before,” he added.
As Magiera spoke, the bartender shouted above the hum of the room, “last call for alcohol!” The bar was still full of people lingering over house-made beers.
The stores along Main Street were also full, and there was a small farmers market on the town green, complete with cooking demonstrations. Children ran across the green towards the bouncy castle with butterflies and whiskers painted on their faces.
Sam Paradee, 9, and his brother Griffin, 6, biked to the festival to eat lunch, listen to the music and see the sights.
“We’re from just up the street,” said Sam. “I’ve seen three friends so far.”
To Magiera, this was the event’s greatest strength.
“It’s drawing on people from Bristol,” he said. “Many of my neighbors, they drive away (during the week). It’s nice that they can take their kids and family to something they can walk to.”
Following the large amount of planning for the event and the turnout that it received, Wells hopes that it will become an annual event dedicated to supporting and celebrating the health of downtown Bristol.
“It’s always easier the second time around,” she said.