Arts form bridge for River Roll and Stroll Festival

  • left, Diane LaRoche, of South Hadley and right, Ann Root of South Hadley help Kairi West, of Greenfield make bubbles at the River Roll and Stroll Festival on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Bridge which connects South Hadley and Holyoke. —GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Firas Hashmi,11, of Amherst plays with back Elijah Chamroeun,6,of Holyoke at the River Roll and Stroll Festival on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Bridge which connects South Hadley and Holyoke. —GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Jeff Grove, a member of the Second Line Social Aid and Pleasure Society Brass Band, plays at the River Roll and Stroll Festival on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Bridge which connects South Hadley and Holyoke. —GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Firas Hashmi,11, of Amherst plays with back Elijah Chamroeun,6,of Holyoke and Mercy Ramaella ,7, of Holyoke at the River Roll and Stroll Festival on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Bridge which connects South Hadley and Holyoke. —GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Alec Fiorentino, a member of the Second Line Social Aid and Pleasure Society Brass Band, plays at the River Roll and Stroll Festival on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Bridge which connects South Hadley and Holyoke. —GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • left, Elijah Chamroeun,6, Soklakina Hem,14 and Sophol Chamroeun all of Holyoke make bubbles at the River Roll and Stroll Festival on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Bridge which connects South Hadley and Holyoke. —GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

@JackSuntrup
Published: 5/7/2017 9:01:34 PM

HOLYOKE — The Connecticut River powered over the Holyoke Dam Sunday under an overcast sky, and hundreds of people stopped to see it.

From Route 116’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial Bridge, that view is not a new one. But for the first time ever, MassDOT on Sunday closed the bridge and opened it up to vendors, dancers, musicians, artists and the community for the first River Roll and Stroll Festival.

The event was part of a series of “Open Streets” events across the country, and also serves as a kickoff to Bay State Bike Week, which lasts from May 13-21.

All sorts of bands and performers spread out over the bridge, which connects South Hadley to Holyoke.

Sean Condon, of Holyoke, who chaired the event with Mariann Millard of South Hadley, said before the event he was excited to see people from both communities getting outside, mingling and reclaiming the bridge space for themselves.

“Hundreds of thousands of people use the bridge regularly in cars but don’t really use it on a more personal level,” he said. “It’s exciting to get people out to enjoy the space for what it is and not just a road from here to there.”

Mandy Cepeda, from Springfield, wore a white and blue flowing dress and white and blue pañuelo, or head wrap, as she danced to maracas, drum beats and singing courtesy of the group Los Gigantes de la Plena y Su Bomba, a western Massachusetts group that specializes in Puerto Rican music.

A crowd of pedestrians gathered around the band as speakers amplified the tunes, directed by Freddy Rivera Angula.

“I believe even the grumpiest person can liven up with this type of music because it speaks to the heart,” Cepeda said. “Even those who are not part of the Puerto Rican culture — they can still feel the music move them.”

Farther down the bridge, a totally different group of dancers leapt all over the bridge. They were Border Morris dancers, dressed in rags and wearing bells around their calves. The style originates from England.

The festivities took a brief, somber turn at one point when officials dedicated two new bridge signs and the New England Patriots’ End Zone Militia delivered a musket volley before a trumpet player played taps.

Brian Willette, commander of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, Western Massachusetts Chapter 875, was tasked with reminding the residents gathered of the bridge’s namesake.

“We dedicate these memorial signs to the sacred memory of all our nation’s defenders who made the ultimate sacrifice,” he said.

Jack Suntrup can be reached at jsuntrup@gazettenet.com.

 

 

 




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