Easthampton Cultural Chaos and Nashawannuck Pond boardwalk ribbon-cutting planned Saturday

Last modified: Wednesday, June 17, 2015

EASTHAMPTON — There’s something in the water — and on it.

The long-awaited Nashawannuck Pond Promenade Park opened earlier this month, and a ribbon-cutting ceremony at noon Saturday for the downtown attraction will also herald the opening of the second annual Cultural Chaos event, which runs until 7 p.m.

This year, the “street festival with a twist” — which includes open studios, live music and other entertainment — has a theme of “it’s in the water.”

In addition to celebrating the opening of the Nashawannuck boardwalk, Easthampton City Arts+ Coordinator Burns Maxey said Cultural Chaos is also paying tribute to the city’s award-winning tap water, which was named best in the nation in February.

“It’s really just a celebration of all these good things that make Easthampton what it is,” Maxey said of the street festival.

Boardwalk reviews

Residents and visitors are increasingly including the Nashawannuck Pond waterfront on that list of good things.

“The pond is the soul of Easthampton,” Cottage Street property owner Mai Stoddard said Wednesday.

Stoddard, whose daughter, Marlies, owns Nash Gallery on Cottage Street, said foot traffic along the street has been “constant” since the boardwalk opened for use June 2.

Jim Ingram, owner of Mt. Tom’s Homemade Ice Cream, agrees.

“I noticed right away the increase in business,” he said. “It’s been amazing.”

While people used to congregate outside his shop while eating their ice cream, now “they just disappear,” he said. “They’re out on the boardwalk looking at the mountain and water.”

Javier Rodrigues of Holyoke was visiting the waterfront Wednesday afternoon. He said his doctor, who works in Easthampton, told him about the boardwalk’s completion earlier that day. With his fishing gear at the ready in his car, Rodrigues decided to head to the water.

“I used to come here fishing a lot,” he said with his feet hanging off one of the boat gangways. “But there’s only so much fishing you can do through the weeds.”

The boardwalk and boat gangways make it easier and more enjoyable to fish, he said, adding, “I’m coming back tomorrow with my kayak.”

Meanwhile, 81-year-old Easthampton native Richard Dion was headed down the gangway to check out the promenade for the first time — even though, he said, he felt the attempt to revitalize the pond was “a waste of money.”

“Ever since the flood it’s never been the same,” he said, referring to the 1955 flood caused by Hurricane Diane. Before the flood, Dion said he remembers catching carp and pumpkinseed in the pond.

City resident Mateusz Marcinowski was enjoying somewhat quiet alone time reading a book on another gangway. He said the nearby traffic and other people were not a distraction.

“I’m enjoying the view because I’m literally on water,” he said. “It’s just a wonderful experience.”

Marcinowski said he’s noticed that since the boardwalk was completed, the level of waterfront activity has picked up significantly. Earlier this week he said he spotted a man practicing yoga on the gangway.

Sitting nearby on steps that lead to the water, sisters Keely and Brenna Quirk were enjoying iced coffees while taking in the view. Both live in Easthampton.

“We were just talking about how Easthampton is pretty,” Keely said.

“You could just take a little picture and put it on a postcard,” Brenna added.

Expanded festival

Over 25 artists will be participating in open studios at 1 Cottage St. on Saturday — just one of the Cultural Chaos festival’s many attractions.

“This year we’re extending (the festival) down to the boardwalk and to Cottage Street open studios,” Maxey said.

Maxey calls Cottage Street Studios the “heart and soul” of the Cultural District.

A “Makers’ Market” will be held outside the studios, where 18 artists and artisans will be selling wares including pottery, photography and other art. Michael Poole, who created the new “01027” bike rack on Main Street will be selling similarly styled belt buckles at the market.

Cottage Street restaurants, including Nini’s Ristorante and Bliss cafe, which is opening soon, will be selling food while a beer garden at the Brass Cat will allow festival-goers to check out the action while enjoying a beverage.

Over a dozen bands are scheduled to perform on three different stages.

Cottage Street will be closed to vehicle traffic for the event.

Chris Lindahl can be reached at clindahl@gazettenet.com.


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