Spring has arrived in New England right on schedule, and for the Meriden Daffodil Festival which counts on over 600,001 daffodils in bloom for the event, that's a good thing. The festival, now in its 35th year, is the largest event of its kind. Located in Meriden's Hubbard Park on 1,800 acres, the festival is as much a celebration of the reemergence of the natural world as it is a harbinger of the summer music festival season.
The festival's reputation is due in part to Robert DeRosa, the longtime booker and local music cheerleader. In his 16 years as the music coordinator, DeRosa has expanded the festival's line-up and stages, while continually scouting for new and local talent. As host of WESU's "Homegrown" radio show, DeRosa has a pulse on the local talent pool and a knack for booking emerging acts. In 2007, a young band out of Wesleyan University caught DeRosa's ear; he booked them, and MGMT played their first off-campus show at the festival.
About this year’s line up, DeRosa says, “My main goal each year is to better the year prior. I never think I can, but I seem to vary the choices enough that most people see an improvement of some sort from year to year. I've included several winners in the CT Music Awards — Daphne Lee Martin, Becky Kessler, 1974, and Little Ugly. Elison Jackson has a real buzz going on, as does Paper Hill Casket Company. And to really change things up, StevesSongs (Steve Roslonek), or “Mr. Steve” from the PBS kids show, Ms. Lori and Hooper. To have a big ticket appearance on for free is a nice thing for families because the festival is really about spanning the generations.”
Julie Riccio, from Southington-based band, The Sawtelles, has played the festival many times since 2001. Together with her husband and bandmate, Peter, the duo also volunteer at the festival’s Welcome Stage loading and unloading band gear. Riccio says, “We're always thrilled to be asked back, especially since there are so many awesome bands out there to choose from. We also try to have a new release each time we play and this year is no exception. Our latest, MOD, is the seventh Sawtelles disc.”
One festival performer who’s returning after an extended absence is the beloved legendary singer-songwriter, Mark Mulcahy (Miracle Legion, Polaris). DeRosa says, “This my biggest personal triumph. He’s been doing some high profile festivals (All Tomorrow’s Parties, Solid Sound) and this is his first Connecticut show in a while.”
In addition to salsa, folk, bluegrass, alt-country and garage rock acts, there’s activities for the kids and plenty of awesome local food vendors that’ll appeal to the foodies and kiddies alike.