Jerry Lewis inspired the Clinton Bluefish Festival. That, at least, is how the story goes.
“Art Novarro was watching the Jerry Lewis telethon and decided that our community could do something to help,” the Bluefish Festival website touted in 2004. “He organized a fall event to bring all ages together.”
The first Bluefish Festival was held in 1972 as a way for civic organizations to fun-raise and fundraise for their various causes. Participating groups not only volunteered time hosting an event, activity, or booth, but were also responsible for providing members to sit on the festival’s planning committee.
“The Bluefish Festival established the major fundraising effort for many organizations in town. I remember being there on a Friday and it was mobbed,” said Debra Drouin, a long-time volunteer and rotary member. “I think on our highest take, [there were] 7,000 people.”
“This is the 37th Annual Bluefish Festival,” said festival co-chair, Sandy Voss. “A lot of hard work went into the planning.”
“A lot of it is awareness,” she continued. “[Organizations] have informational booths. Republicans and democrats come out and have a booth. The fire department—the junior division—has a booth. Each year the Ladies’ Auxiliary is out raising funds.”
But not all the booths at this year’s event are informational. There will also be a healthy dose of crafts, food, local music, games, and entertainment.
This year’s Bluefish Festival also boasts a number of family-friendly contests. Stop & Shop has sponsored the 7th Annual Blueberry pie-eating contest. The festival touts a karaoke contest, a pet photo contest, talent show, chowder cook-off, a Little Miss Bluefish pageant, and, of course, the annual fishing tournament with cash prizes.
“This year we added a video arcade truck and there’s a petting zoo,” Voss listed, “and a rubber duck race. We also give out two scholarships to high school seniors at Morgan.”
The breadth of the festival lands squarely on the efforts of its dedicated committee.
“The Bluefish committee chair people really stepped above and beyond what you should have to do in town,” said Drouin. “It’s quite an undertaking.”
“It’s a big job for one person. It’s a big job for two people,” exclaimed Voss, who shares chairing responsibilities with Bob Corson, “but we have an absolutely phenomenal committee."
“It’s just such a great group of people,” said Drouin. “These are just local people who are trying to keep tradition going on in town. I stay on because I don’t want to see it fold. It’s a really great event—they moved it down behind Town hall. It’s still on the water—we got that beautiful location. We got plenty of free parking. Great music.”
“It’s pretty much the only event that the town does as a group,” Drouin continued. “It’s [Rotary’s] largest fundraiser actually for the year, which enables us to do many of the projects that we have throughout the year. We would have to come up with a pretty large fundraiser to be able to put on our events for the year if the Bluefish Festival actually closed.”
“So, if you want to get involved with something in town that’s not political, it’s a great group to get involved with—not a lot of time and effort other than the weekend of the festival. I think we have twelve meetings all year,” said Drouin. “It’s just fun.”
The Clinton Bluefish Festival is open this weekend at the Clinton Andrews Memorial Town Hall. It runs Friday, July 22 at 6pm-10pm and Saturday, July 23 from noon to 11pm. Parking is available in front of Unilever. Tickets are available for $1. For more information on the festival visit http://www.clintonbluefishfest.com/ or call 860-669-1195.