Around 300,000 people are expected to pour into New London this weekend for the 41st annual Sailfest and there’s no shortage of food, art and entertainment.
Tents and awnings were going up and equipment was being unloaded on City Pier all day Thursday, ahead of the start of Sailfest.
"This is like Christmas in July for our community and that’s why I do it. It brings people in that get exposed to the city that maybe have never been to New London before,” said Barbara Neff, executive director of Sailfest.
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There’s no shortage of what visitors will experience from the food, to around 200 vendors lining the street, the Hygienic Artesian Market and more than 30 entertainers.
“I think it shows the creativity that’s here in New London in terms of art and music,” said Hygienic Art President and Co-Founder Vincent Scarano.
Hygienic Art is hosting local bands, a Fiesta Latina and a shoreline acoustic music festival throughout the event.
For those who enjoy being on the water, the Spirit of the Sound, the Thames River Heritage Park Sailfest Water Taxi and the Mystic Whaler are available for a ride.
“You can say, ‘I hauled up the sail on the Mystic Whaler’ and then you sit back and enjoy,” said Deckhand David Lebson about the experience.
Berry’s Ice Cream & Candy Bar moved to a new home on Bank Street. Owner Laura Beckham said they did all of the construction in five weeks to be open in time for Sailfest. There’s even a new outdoor patio to watch the fireworks.
“This is our biggest weekend of the year and if we missed this then it wouldn’t have been the same season,” Beckham said.
And then, there’s the Mashantucket Pequot Fireworks Extravaganza, sponsored by Foxwoods Resort Casino.
Garden State Fireworks is producing the event. They started setting up Thursday. Display Operator Tom Castagna said the show is one of the largest displays in New England, it’s choreographed to music and it will wow as it lights up the night sky.
First responders have been working out the safety and security details for months.
Sailfest starts at 3 p.m. on Friday and runs until 6 p.m. on Sunday. The fireworks are at 9 p.m. on Saturday.
NBC Connecticut is a proud media sponsor of Sailfest.