Weekly Music and More Returns to the Branford Green
Local band Lunchbox is shown here performing live on the Branford green on Thurs. June 28, including members Tony Palluzzi, Kait Coyle, Jim Olden, Chris Maiocco and Pete Coyle. (Photo by Pam Johnson/The Sound)
Although the pandemic has cancelled Branford's beloved summer jazz series for the second year in a row, weekly music is back on Branford green every Thursday night, hosted by the Town of Branford and Branford Parks and Recreation.
Backed by a professional sound system and set up on the grass, the series of shows began playing to appreciative, growing crowds of community members on Thursday nights in June. The weekly music will continue all summer and into early October, with a line-up of live local bands or "DJ on the Green" music by Dennis Nardella of Nardella's Music Company of Branford. Nardella will be featured this Thurs. July 1, from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. All shows are weather permitting.
Together with a schedule of weekly Thursday performances, July's free entertainment schedule on the Branford green will also include "Way Back Wednesdays," said Colin Sheehan, Arts, Culture and Special Events and Programs Coordinator for the Town of Branford.
"We're going to have Town Hall Drive filled with vintage cars, and DJ Dennis Nardella playing '50's music, every Wednesday in July," said Sheehan.
Community members are invited to sign up to have their vintage cars join the display (to register, email email@example.com ). Cars will be on view from 6 p.m. – 8 p.m. Branford Parks and Recreation will also be posting notices about upcoming events and weekly music on the green at its website (BranfordRecreation.org), Facebook page (@BranfordParksandRec) and other social media sites, said Sheehan.
Sheehan's already set up Thursday night schedules for the rest of July and August. Shows run from 6 p.m. – 8 p.m. beginning Thursday July 8, with live jazz by the Jeff Fuller Trio, a local fan favorite.
"He's played in our jazz series before, and he's great," says Sheehan.
DJ Dennis Nardella plays on the green July 15; followed by the Isabella Mendes Duo on July 22; with DJ Dennis Nardella returning July 29. August begins with live music by Dreamfield Aug. 5, DJ Dennis Nardella August 12, Mame & Company August 19 and DJ Dennis Nardella August 26.
Sheehan has many more bands seeking to join the lineup he's building for more performances on the green taking place throughout September and into October.
"I have so many people that have reached out that want to play, which is just a constant theme," said Sheehan. "I just want to be able to help bring the community together and help local artists create art together, in front of people, instead of a computer screen."
Sheehan said this year's small scale outdoor music programs on the Branford green are actually a renewal of a successful program offered, without fanfare, to the community last summer, after the pandemic cancelled the 2020 Jazz Series.
"We did this last year every Thursday over the summer into the fall. We were so cooped up in our houses, it was great," said Sheehan. "But then, it was a long winter and a long spring. And it's great that, after months of not being able to gig and perform music together, these local artists are so excited to play and create and make live music again, together. And it's great for the town to support these local musicians."
Branford First Selectman Jamie Cosgrove said publicly promoting a schedule of free entertainment on the Branford green each week is a great way to start to bringing the community back together, and to lend some support by bringing more foot traffic to area merchants and restaurants around the green.
"The [Branford] Festival and the jazz series were cancelled because of the uncertainty of what was going to happen," said Cosgrove. "But we've seen that people are using the green more for passive recreation. And so the Parks and Recreation Department is working on bringing some attractions, starting with the Thursday nights; as well as looking at some other activities to offer."
During safe-distancing days of the pandemic, the Town of Branford added some metal bistro tables and chairs on the green; in part as a place for diners to enjoy take-out restaurant meals while dining rooms were closed. The Town of Branford also turned on free Wi-Fi use on the green in 2020, which continues to be available (settings on any device should automatically connect to the wireless network Bfdpublic). Use of the green has grown noticably and more tables and chairs have been added.
In addition to possibly purchasing dinner from a local restaurant to bring to a table on the green while enjoying events this summer, people can also bring their own blankets and chairs for seating for the music events, as they have in the past, said Parks and Recreation Director Alex Palluzzi Jr.
"We know there's a need for these events. People want to get out again and express themselves, and one way to do this is by socializing and having music and some activities and different events," said Palluzzi. "It's also supporting the downtown merchants and restaurants by bringing more foot traffic. So we're going to try to do as much as we can. And we're also grateful for the support we've had from the administration and the first selectman to bring the community together and to help the business community in the center of town."
Palluzzi also noted that, as of July 1, Sheehan is now the Town of Branford's full-time Arts, Culture and Special Events and Programs Coordinator. The new full-time position, approved as part of the 2021-22 Town of Branford budget, drew 60 applicants, resulting in several quality candidates, including Sheehan, who were recently interviewed as part of a thorough hiring process, said Palluzzi. The role was previously a part-time job which Sheehan held in 2019-20.
"I've been director for almost 30 years and I thought -- and I know that that first selectman and Human Resources and [the Recreation] board would agree with me – I know that for what the community has been looking for, for the last couple of years, and what they wanted in the arts and culture and special events and theater...it was the right place, the right time and the right hire. I think it's one of the most important hires we've made in my 30 years," said Palluzzi.
Featured as a 2017 Person of the Week in Zip06/The Sound, Sheehan is Branford native who worked in Broadway and television in New York City before returning here in 2016 with his own events/production company. Since that time, he's curated several local arts and cultural programs, events and benefits in town. In 2018, he co-founded Shoreline Theatre Company with Mike Martone in collaboration with Branford Parks and Recreation.
"Until I moved back to Branford, I always thought I'd live in New York City. I never in my wildest dreams thought this would lead to a full-time job with the Town," said Sheehan. "But dreams change as you move through life; and I realize this is my dream job. Moving back to Branford was the best decision I ever made."