BRISTOL – Downtown was a happening place Saturday.
The day kicked off with the city’s very first Farmers Market of the year. By mid-day, people flocked to Bristol Health’s celebration of their new building. And to cap it all off was the grand opening of Better Half Brewing and Mo’s Brick Oven Pizza.
“It’s a great day for citizens in Bristol,” said Mayor Ellen Zoppo-Sassu.
It was a great day for two reasons, she said. One was expansion of health care available to residents.
“The hospital is very innovative,” said Zoppo-Sassu.
The second reason was the revitalization of downtown.
“For the first time in a long time there’s a reason for people to be downtown on a weekend,” said the mayor.
City Councilor Scott Rosado agreed.
“For me, today’s events make what Bristol is truly about: community coming together,” said Rosado.
At the Farmers Market, people explored the different vendors offering a variety of goods from fresh fruits and vegetables to homemade bread and maple syrup.
Krista Goodrich, a graduate of Bristol Eastern High School, provided live music for the shoppers.
A highlight of the market was the debut of the “Trash to Treasure” program. Transfer Station employees have been rescuing items from the trash that can still be used for the last couple of months. Visitors could literally take someone else’s trash and make it their treasure, while helping the environment and saving the city on disposal services at the same time.
At the Bristol Health celebration, health professionals shared information about their services, kids climbed on bounce houses and all enjoyed the community atmosphere.
“We’re super excited to have a community event to showcase the building,” said Ed Henry, Executive Director of Bristol Health Medical Group, who oversaw the project.
“Here we are 13 months later and we’re enjoying the fruits of everyone’s hard work,” said John Lodovico, the vice chairman of Bristol Health’s Board of Directors.
It wouldn’t have been possible without the dedication of everyone involved, he added.
“It’s a beautiful, state-of-the-art building,” Lodovico continued, saying that the addition will “help investors look at downtown on a very positive note.”
“It’s all about bringing the community together,” he said.
Bristolites ate clam strips, apple crisps and bbq, listened to singers, danced Zumba and watched martial arts demonstrations.
“It’s a great turnout,” said Veronica Johndro, who attended the event with her husband and 3-year-old son, who scurried up the bounce house, slid down and raced to do it all over again.
“We probably will have to drag him away from it,” said Johndro.
Jeff Haddad, owner of Ascension Athletics, a mixed martial arts studio in Bristol, was excited to show what’s kicking at his studio.
“We’re showing them what we offer and they can try a free week,” said Haddad. The studio offers a variety of programs, such as kickboxing and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
“There is a cardio benefit. There is a strength benefit. There is a coordination benefit – confidence and self-defense,” he added.
Artwork was also a major focus of the event. In front of the new Bristol Health building stood a mural of a bird, painted by Nick Stafko, owner of Black Pearl Custom Artwork, and Ken Greene.
“The event is great. It’s a beautiful day. Everyone’s having fun,” said Stafko. “This one was a cool concept. I had a lot of fun painting it.”
“Bringing artwork downtown is going to brighten up the community,” he added.
Another artist, Ashley Lodovico, sold watercolor paintings at the celebration. She had sold some of her work to Bristol Health so they could hang it in the new building.
“I’m pleased with the opportunity that Bristol and Bristol Health has created,” said Lodovico.
Many thought the Bristol Health building itself was a work of art.
“The new building is absolutely beautiful,” said Kristine Henry. “It’s a nice event to revitalize downtown.”
The event also gave Bristol Health a chance to showcase what they offer.
“The aim of today is to talk about some of the services we have,” said Dr. Peter Bellezza who was giving free foot and ankle screenings to attendees.
Just across the road, Better Half Brewing and Mo’s Brick Oven Pizza were celebrating their joint grand opening.
“We’re celebrating everything – the hospital, the Farmers Market,” said Mo’s Brick Oven Pizza owner Mohamed Ibrahim. His new restaurant also serves a variety of Mediterranean food.
“We had a lot of people asking the last couple of months when we’re going to open,” said Ibrahim. He added that they opened for the first time yesterday and gave away free slices to get people hooked.
While Ibrahim was firing up the brick oven, Rachel Haseltine was giving visitors a tour of the brewery. Haseltine and her husband co-own Better Half Brewing.
“We’re super excited,” said Haseltine. People were able to buy gift cards, merchandise and take a tour. One thing they couldn’t do was get a glass of beer.
“We’re still working out some logistics with our liquor license,” said Haseltine. “The city has been really great helping us every step of the way.”
Haseltine said that she hopes the brewery will be a place for the community to come together, play games and make memories.
And, eventually, grab a beer.
Michelle Jalbert can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.