To Be or Not to Be?

Celebrate! The Shakespeare Market goes legit!

by Tom Dillon
Impresario

The Shakespeare Market is moving in for good!  Only three months into its existence, the fledgling market has now incorporated and filed as a tax deductible charity organization!  The market announced it will officially run May through October on the first and third Sundays.  More than 90 Connecticut businesses thrilled 8,662 regional residents from Jan 17 through Easter Sunday!

The Town sponsored event was the product of the community forums held after the fire in 2019.  Residents called out having an outdoor market on the grounds while plans for a permanent structure of one sort or another is decided upon.  With demand from Connecticut’s host of micro entrepreneurs and regional residents loud and clear, market organizers are moving at breakneck speed to formalize Stratford’s newest institution.

Amanda Meeson, Executive Director of Sterling House, did not hesitate to sing the market’s praises to Carl Glad, local attorney and Chairman of the Board of Stratford’s beloved community hub. Carl, who practices at the Law Offices of Kurt M. Ahlberg LLC at 2885 Main Street, offered his services to see through the process of incorporation and establishing The Shakespeare Market as an official 501c3.

Patti Gallagher, Stratford resident and branch manager of The Milford Bank at Paradise Green, jumped at the chance to assist organizers with setting up for the never ending task of paying the organization’s impending bills!

A new Board of Directors has been established. Stratford’s own Zane Carey, Elizabeth Saint and Suzanne Kachmar make up the body of the organization, along with Tom Dillon.  Zane is the Secretary and will be the backbone of the organization’s record keeping.  Suzanne Kachmar will lead the Market’s effort to bring art and music to the grounds of the Theater after too many silent years!  Elizabeth Saint, resident of the Historic District and team member of the Stratford Arts and Culture Festival – Phoenix Season takes on the role of Treasurer!

The original intent and the future of the market will be primarily to bring life to the grounds of the American Shakespeare Festival Theatre Park.  A festival atmosphere every first and third Sunday in Stratford.  Food trucks! Farmers! Bakers! Crafters! Community Organizations! Live Music! Wide and varied performance!  All with acres of park and a gorgeous view of the Housatonic River and the Long Island Sound!

No parking or tickets fees are planned.  Vendor booth spaces and a handful of other revenue generating ideas should be enough to pay the bills: public safety, clean facilities, live music, and possibly shuttle service depending on how many decide to join the fun!  While The Shakespeare Market will be run properly like any good business, it will be done in the spirit of Newman’s Own.  Most Connecticut people know Paul Newman’s fantastically successful charitable business.  Its an amazing example that will be emulated in every good way.  The market will provide what people want at fair prices, pay our bills, create an endowment, and distribute the rest to Stratford and regional charities.

Unless something unexpected happens, the next markets on April 17 and 18 will be moved out of the parking lot and onto the perimeter of the field facing the road.  The pedestrians will circle the field using the road which will be one-way until COVID hopefully dissipates.  The center of the field will be available for picnics and play.  Both parking lots will finally be available for cars.

Both market dates will have live music performances. Hitch and the Giddyup will perform on Saturday April 17th.  Parker’s Tangent will be the performers on Sunday April 18th.  The stage is planned to be near the costume building and people are welcome to bring lawn chairs and picnic blankets and hang out in the pine grove.

Chair massage and yoga will be available as well.  Check the roster on the website for more details as they get posted!

Expect each market to grow and expand just a little bit each round.  The debut on January 17 had 22 participants.  April 3 and 4 saw the number of vendors swell to 40.  As we move into the field and we carefully grow the market month over month, the number of vendors could double again!

More than 200 businesses applied to participate in the Jan – April period.  Now more than 125 have already applied for the May through October period. The list grows every day. Market organizers are trying to find space for everyone.  Patience is being requested so the market doesn’t suffer a setback with growing pains.  The goal is to give everyone a chance to participate.

The idea that thousands of people would be enjoying the property after the theater burned to the ground was a lofty one. It was all the more astounding by doing it during a global pandemic. And that is still somehow less impressive than getting thousands of Connecticut people to come outdoors in the dead of winter!  It was COLD out there!

The theater stood fallow for decades and now there is real hope that this is no flash in the pan. Stratford has something to jump up and down about! More than 90 Connecticut businesses had strong starts to their 2021 fiscal year after the year that took so much away. SO MANY are Stratford folk, the folk in the next town over, or the town next to that.  Bridgeport, Milford, Trumbull and so many other CT towns came to Stratford and Stratford came out in droves for them.  The Shakespeare Market aims to continue bringing us all together so we can see the best in one another.

None of it was possible without a glowing green light from Town Hall.  Karin Doyle, Raynae Serra, Chad Esposito, Maureen Whelan, Greta Broneill, Officer Dias, Sgt. Albohn, Lt. Leon, and Chief McNeil all have been absolutely instrumental in finding solutions to challenges along the way!  The Mayor bet on this idea in the late fall and how did it work!  So many others worked so hard to make this happen, not just for Stratford, but for our region as a whole.

If you haven’t been to the Market, you should!  April 17th and 18th is your next shot!

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