Unique festival at southside city park a celebration of art, plants, bikes, community and culture

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Peace signs and plants for all from Trixie Vasquez of Juneteenth MHT. Photo/Winter Trabex

MANCHESTER, NH – Brown-Mitchell Park sits tucked away at the end of Mitchell Street on the south side of Manchester next to the entrance of The Hollows disc golf course.

Fences surround the park on all sides, with only a bumpy unpaved road leading to a bumpy unpaved parking lot. On Saturday, May 14, cars filled the lot and were parked on either side of the road and in any other nook and cranny they could find.

A generator hummed away, powering nearby music, which could be heard from some distance in any direction. On the other side of the fence, a large sandlot baseball field held a type of event Manchester has rarely – if ever – seen before: an Art and Plants Festival.

Volunteers from Manchester Moves provided two-wheeled adventures for kids of all ages during the May 14 Art & Plant Extravaganza. Photo/Carol Robidoux

Though the festival was hosted by Manchester Grows, a variety of other organizations also took part. Tents and small pavilions were set up at which food, plants, and works of art were sold. On the far side of the ball field, various paintings were propped up against a fence along the third baseline. One work depicted five African-American leaders, including Martin Luther King Jr.

Though the day was a hot 85 to 90 degrees, attendees nevertheless mingled about, talking, purchasing, enjoying the music.

Among the groups in attendance was Juneteenth MHT, an organization dedicated to highlighting and uplifting the voices of black and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) individuals in Manchester

Peter MacLellan’ of Manchester Grows. Photo/Winter Trabex

Trixie Vasquez from Juneteenth MHT explained, “This will be our third year running this event. It will be near the Hopknot, in the courtyard. Our big goal for this year is ‘spread the wealth.’ So we’re inviting black and BIPOC business owners to set up as vendors on the plaza, engage with the community, sell the wares. It’s going to be focused on getting money in the pockets of black and BIPOC business owners.”

Manchester Grows, a local organization whose people work in greenhouses and “nerd out on plants, insects, and food” (according to their Facebook page), never went to the trouble of having their own festival before. There were several logistical challenges involved, but they appeared equal to the challenge.

Kaitlyn, a volunteer from Manchester Grows, sold plants while the sun beat down. She said, “What we have going on here is all volunteer work. It’s donation-based, you don’t have to pay if you don’t want to. We have a greenhouse right over there,” she pointed to a spot adjacent to the park. “And we’re just trying to seed any kinds of vegetables or anything we want to get.”

Gallery/Constance Cherise

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Peter MacLellan’ from Manchester Grows was one of the event organizers. He wore an infectious smile while he beamed ear to ear, wearing a colorful tie-dye shirt. He moved about from one station to the next, checking on how everyone was doing.

He said, “We grew a bunch of organic flowers, vegetables, and herbs and are trying to get them out to the public. This is our first year. The last few years, I got involved building community gardens across the city, and then the city approached us about using a greenhouse that hadn’t been operated in a decade wondering if we could bring it back.

“So we started using that space and growing a lot of plants. We donated last year to a lot of other plant sales, but then we thought maybe we should have our own event.”

Nicky DeFrancesco, aka The Crimson Fiddler, performed improvisational music on violin. Photo/Vanessa Edwards

Music of various types was provided. When music wasn’t played out of the speakers, a solo violinist played on stage. She played sorrowful, emotional music at times; at other times, she seemed inspired by a muse only she could see. A trained opera singer and professional tarot reader, she goes by “The Crimson Fiddler.”

She was Nicky DeFrancesco, who approached the event with unbridled enthusiasm. When not playing, she greeted others with excitement. 

Her words poured forth as if from an upturned water bottle. She said, “Improvisational violin is very uncommon in terms of classical music. It’s becoming more popular, but my goal is to de-colonize the violin by making it less Eurocentric and more an improvisatory work based on sounds you hear in nature. I have the background of a classical violinist, so I was brought up and raised in classical Eurocentrism.

“My goal is to see through the Eurocentric standards of beauty for classical music and break down the instrument so that it becomes beautiful in all sounds and all aspects of what it can do,” she said.

And while DeFrancesco improvised on the violin, Yaz Safarzadeh of Manchester Grows painted the music on a giant canvas mid-field.

Yaz Sarfarzadeh of Manchester Grows painting to the music. Photo/Constance Cherise

A painting by Manchester artist Tamara Morris, one of many vendors who were able to show and sell their artwork during the festival. Photo/Carol Robidoux

Gallery/Vanessa Edwards

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The Manchester Garden Club had 10 members volunteer their time to help with the plant tent. All plants were donated by individuals or raised by Manchester Grows in their greenhouse specifically for the plant sale.

Single sunflower sprouts were donated by a member and placed in origami-wrapped containers and made available for free to anyone who wanted one.

Included in the plants for sale were an assortment of herbs, vegetables, perennial and annual flowers, in addition to blue spruce and cedar trees. There were also some house plants that were propagated specifically for the plant sale and sold in small containers, and they were quite popular with attendees. For those who purchases a number of plants, members of the garden club running the vendor table held the plants in the shade while attendees visited other vendors. 

While it’s not been decided yet whether Manchester Grows will host similar events this year or next, if the success of the organization’s first event is anything to go by, a new yearly tradition may have just been launched.

A list of Manchester’s community gardens can be found here: www.fuunevents.com/gardens/

Gallery/Winter Trabex

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About this Author


Winter Trabex

Winter Trabex is a freelance writer from Manchester and regular contributor to Community Voices.