Simon Says: It's Time To Party!



It has been described by the founders as a giant block party. Which means Greenwich is about to become one seriously cool neighborhood again when the Greenwich Town Party returns for a second year to Roger Sherman Baldwin Park on Saturday, May 26 with legendary singer/songwriter Paul Simon in the role of headliner. Gospel great Kirk Franklin, reggae sensations The Wailers, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, and the Tedeschi Trucks Band join multiple Grammy-winner Simon to entertain as many as 5,000 town residents.

And if the headliners weren’t enough to lure a spirited Memorial Day weekend crowd to the daylong shindig, there’s more: food booths staffed by top local restaurants, a barbecue grill-off and a new kids’ art contest all expand on the GTP’s one-big-happening-village vibe.

The GTP was founded last year when philanthropic town resident and Bridgewater Associates founder Ray Dalio approached First Selectman Peter Tesei with the big idea. Inspired by a town party he had experienced while traveling with his wife in Spain, Ray suggested bringing the same spirited community-themed celebration to Greenwich. The premise was simple: A town party thrown for Greenwich residents by Greenwich residents.

The first party, planned in a remarkably short three months (and supported largely with private donations), was a sellout. Based on last year’s 3,000 attendees and traffic patterns, town officials gave their blessing for an even larger crowd this year.

Besides the allure of the multi-Grammy winning Simon and the promise of larger crowds, a board of fourteen key+ advisors (town residents, business leaders and First Selectman Tesei) has been working for several months to make the 2012 party even better. The party begins at 10 a.m. and concludes at 10 p.m., with “family time” (carnival games, face painting, strolling magicians, caricature artists and more) designated between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Local bands have been encouraged to submit demo materials for a chance to perform on GTP’s second sound stage. And to get the kids more involved, this month the GTP will begin accepting entries via its website for its Community Art Contest. Children in grades K through 12 are invited to submit drawings, photos and paintings that define what “community” means to them. The young winners will receive free admission and all submissions will be displayed on video at the outdoor party.

Since its inception, GTP has had a goal of making the party accessible to all, relying heavily on donations to subsidize its all-day $40 ticket price (various packages are available for families and seniors). We’re told last year’s GTP tickets would have cost $350 per person if the actual costs had been passed on to attendees. And organizers stress no town revenues are used to support the festivities. The town is reimbursed for any out-of-pocket expenses for services such as police security, a GTP spokesperson explains.

With seventy-five volunteers needed to staff the event, town residents are encouraged to get involved, by signing up to lend a hand. The GTP, after all, is an enormous undertaking, conceived around the idea if “everyone throws something in the pot,” the event will naturally invigorate community spirit. Now, that’s something to celebrate. —Beth Cooney Fitzpatrick

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