Springtime sees Connecticut play host to a wide number of events, including several festivals, fairs and exhibitions, with something for every taste on offer.
Across the southern New England state’s mix of coastal cities and rural areas dotted with small towns, spring events draw visitors from far and wide. Many of them celebrate characteristics specific to the region, while others are more generic in theme. If you’re coming to Connecticut this spring and would like to attend some great events during your stay, we’ve picked out 10 of the best to look out for.
Meriden Daffodil Festival at Hubbard Park
Taking place amid the green expanse of Hubbard Park against an eye-catching backdrop of over 60 varieties of daffodils, the city of Meriden’s largest and most colourful festival features an array of family-friendly events and activities. There’s live stage music, Disney and cartoon character meet and greets, a stunt bike show, juggling displays, hypnotism sessions, local dance studios, fireworks, a craft fair, and several food vendors serving up diverse cuisine. But perhaps the festival’s flagship offering is the spectacular annual parade, which sees thousands of local residents, school children, school bands, and local groups riding march along in imaginative hometown-built floats.
North Haven Fairgrounds / 29-30 April 2023
‘Peter Anton: Just Desserts’ exhibition
This solo exhibition at Fairfield University Art Museum’s Walsh Gallery showcases artist and sculptor Peter Anton’s incredibly realistic, oversized pop sculptures of desserts. Anton’s models for his array of mouth-watering desserts come from products that are instantly familiar to the viewer and evoke a nostalgia for childhood (and adult) favourites. Sculptures featured in the exhibition include a melting chocolate-covered ice cream pop, a gigantic box of donuts, and an enormous open box of chocolates with a few missing a bite, together with numerous crumpled brown candy cups.
Fairfield University Art Museum Fairfield / 28 April-15 July 2023
‘Isaac Julien / Frederick Douglass’ exhibition
Isaac Julien’s immersive, multiscreen film installation Lessons of the Hour anchors this exploration of the visionary abolitionist Frederick Douglass. Marking 180 years since Douglass first visited Hartford – when he delivered a speech just outside the Wadsworth, on the grounds of Center Church on May 18, 1843 – Julien’s narrative weaves Douglass’s writings with filmed reenactments of his travels and contemporary protest footage, underscoring Douglass’s relevance and resonance today. The most photographed individual of the nineteenth century, Douglass knew how images could influence cultural perspectives. The 25-minute video art experience is accompanied by rarely seen nineteenth-century photography reflective of Douglass’s life and times, bringing the historical figure into clear focus.
Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford / 18 May-24 September 2023
Connecticut Sheep, Wool & Fiber Festival
Held every year on the last Saturday in April in the town of Vernon, this agricultural-themed festival has a strong educational purpose. First launched back in 1909 as a way to promote the keeping of sheep in Connecticut, the event has gone from strength to strength and today has grown into a major festival featuring exhibits, sheep shearing and knitting demonstrations, and over 60 vendors selling a variety of wares. Other highlights include a sheep dog trial, a kids’ activity corner, live music, food, and plenty more.
North Haven Fairgrounds / 29 April 2023
‘Crafting Worldviews: Art and Science in Europe, 1500-1800’ exhibition
The period spanning the 16th and 18th centuries was an era of voyage, trade, and European territorial dominance on a global scale. Featuring objects ranging from the everyday, such as books, globes, microscopes, and sundials, to the more unusual, such as a hand-cranked model of the solar system, this exhibition examines the inseparable relationship between art, science, and European colonialism during this time. Drawn from across Yale University campus and crafted from both locally and globally obtained materials, including brass, ivory, mahogany, and ebony, the works featured are remarkable not just for their exquisite design but also their intricate construction, serving to illuminate the critical role that art and science have played in shaping Europeans’ understanding of the world and their place within it.
Yale Peabody Museum, Yale University, New Haven / 17 February – 25 June 2023
Cherry Blossom Festival
In 1973, the Historical Commission and Parks Department of New Haven, together with a group of local residents, planted 72 trees in the neighbourhood of Wooster Square in the coastal city of New Haven. Ever since, the city district has been the setting for one of Connecticut’s most vivid and enthusiastically attended cherry blossom festivals. For one week, the area is bedecked in the pretty Japanese flowers, while live music, games for children, and trucks serving street food provide entertainment for the 10,000-plus revellers who flock here each year for the event.
Wooster Square, New Haven / 24- 30 April 2023
‘Alfred Pope: An Evolution of Ingenuity’ exhibition
This exhibition features a group of paintings and drawings once owned by Alfred Pope, the little-known father of Hill-Stead museum’s founder, Theodate, and a leading collector of European modernism. The exhibition covers two distinct phases, both offering two completely different visitor experiences. The first highlights the many facets of Alfred – his pursuits and character – as well as the individual works and their stories coming into and leaving the collection, while the second aims to recreate the period rooms during the years of his residence (1901- 1913), bringing back some of the paintings Theodate sold after his death.
Hill-Stead Museum, Farmington / Through 30 May 2023
Greenfield Hill Church will host the 86th Dogwood Festival this May – an event dating back to 1936, when as the story goes, the women of the church began selling refreshments and handmade craft items to visitors who came to the area each spring to view the beautiful Dogwood trees, with the purpose of raising money for women and children’s charities. Today, the festival continues to be run by church volunteers, and the tradition of giving all profits to charity also endures. Among the entertainment is music, food, children’s activities, and 60+ arts and crafts vendors.
Greenfield Hill Congregational Church, Fairfield / 8 May 2023
Cruise the Connecticut River aboard the RiverQuest or the Onrust. The RiverQuest is the Museum’s 64-foot eco-tour boat where you experience the River’s ecology, history, and wildlife. The Onrust is a replica of one of the first western style ships built in the new world, and the first ever to sail up the Connecticut River and Long Island Sound. Both vessels are on the docks of the Connecticut River Museum. Cruises are offered Thursdays through Sundays. Private charters are available. The Connecticut River Museum is open year-round Tuesday through Sunday, offering guided and self-guided tours. ctrivermuseum.org.
Connecticut River Museum, Essex / May through October 2023
Litchfield Hills Brewfest
Set in the magnificent foothills of the Berkshire Mountains, some of the most spectacular and unspoiled scenery to be found anywhere in Connecticut, this hugely popular beer festival draws lovers of the amber nectar from far and wide. Now in its 12th year, the festival invites visitors to come and sample speciality beers and microbrews, as well as wine, cider and moonshine from more than 70 vendors. There’s also live music, a wide choice of food trucks, silent auctions and raffles.
Ski Sundown, New Hartford / 10 June 2023
Cajun & Zydeco Music and Dance Festival
Featuring the best music and dancing from the heart of Southwest Louisiana’s Cajun and Creole country, this festival sees live stage performances overlooking large wooden dance floors. providing plenty of room to stut your stuff to the beats of the bands and learn all the right moves from on-hand dance instructors. Notable names to feature on the line-up this year includes returning favourites Dennis Stroughmatt with both his Creole Stomp and Honky Tonk Circus bands, as well as festival newcomers The Daiquiri Queens and Miss Paula & the Twangbusters. Free lessons in various Cajun, Zydeco, and Western Swing dances will also be available throughout the festival
Strawberry Park, Preston / 8 June 2023
By Paul Joseph