Oct. 1 smArtFest to Benefit Branford Wreaths Across America
A huge array of artisans and crafters will fill the smART Fest tent on the Branford Green on Saturday, Oct. 1, to help Eagle Scout Mark Hally fund this year’s Wreaths Across America (WAA) effort to decorate all Branford military graves in December. The wreaths will be laid in Branford’s seven cemeteries on National WAA Day, Saturday, Dec. 17.
Featuring an array of artisan crafts, food, live music, and more, smART Fest takes place Saturday, Oct. 1 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the Branford Town Green. smART Fest also offers opportunities for other local organizations to raise funds for their causes, as well, said Hally.
“The entire event is a fundraiser for Wreaths Across America and helping support other local not for profit organizations,” he said.
The day’s juried artisan exhibition will offer a wide variety of unique items for sale at booths under the big tent on the green, featuring over 40 talented artisans and crafters from all over the state (see their work at SMart FEST on Facebook). Booth rentals benefit WAA.
Mixing art with smart, the event will also promote education. Branford Early Learning Center (BELC) is sponsoring a painted pumpkin contest display. Local author Colleen Marie Olinski will be on hand with her new children’s book, A Wolf Named Elvis. Mentored by art teacher Donna Roy, Branford High School (BHS) Young Women's Group will be selling hand-made scarves and scrunchies as a fundraiser for October’s national Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Hally is a member of M.P. Rice Hose Co. 2. At smART Fest, Co. 2 firefighters will be at work cooking up sausage, egg and cheese sandwiches, hot dogs, and beverages for sale to benefit Co. 2. Sausage and peppers are donated by The Brushmill by the Waterfall in Chester. In addition, Branford Historical Society members will offer that all-ages favorite, macaroni and cheese, with proceeds from sales to benefit the society.
The day also will be filled with live music, including a Bluegrass act. Music will play 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
SmART FEST 2022 Pumpkin Book Character Contest
Sponsored by BELC, the contest offers prizes in four age categories, starting with under 5 and running up to 18 and up. Using any medium, entrants create their favorite storybook character on a pumpkin. No carved pumpkins are allowed. First prize is a Fired Up! gift certificate. To enter, send name, book title, and character to Bfdpumpkincontest@gmail.com Pumpkins must be dropped off between 8 and 10 a.m. on the Green on Oct. 1, together with a copy of the book or a copy of cover.
Supporting WAA in Branford
Now a college freshman, Hally instituted Branford's WAA program in 2019 at age 15, as part of his Eagle Scout project.
"I wanted every veteran in Branford to have a wreath just like they do in Arlington," he said, speaking with Zip06/The Sound at the time.
National WAA Day is observed on a Saturday in mid-December each year, by placing wreaths on veterans’ graves not only in Arlington National Cemetery, but in cemeteries nationwide. In past years, Branford has hosted a travel stop for the impressive WAA Maine-to-Virginia convoy, en route to Arlington.
Since the Branford program’s inception, Hally has pledged to do his utmost to continue the effort. He continues to receive volunteer assistance on WAA Day from Branford Boy Scout Troop 604 and the extended Branford Fire Department (BFD) membership.
In 2019, Hally and volunteers placed 1,600 wreaths in Branford cemeteries on national WAA Day, marking the first time Branford military places of rest received the honor. In December 2020, Hally and small cadre of dedicated volunteers put on their face masks, grabbed their snow shovels and helped place 1,300 WAA wreaths on Branford military graves. Last year, a total of 1,658 wreaths were sponsored and placed.
Each wreath equals a donation of $15. Hally’s 2022 goal is to raise between $20,000 to $25,000. A Branford WAA donations table will be set up at smART Fest, where community members can also sign up to volunteer for 2022 WAA Day in Branford.
Donations to the Branford WAA effort can be also made by online at Wreathsacrossamerica.org/CT0101 or by sending a check payable to: Wreaths Across America CT0101; mailed to Mark Hally, 18 Wilford Avenue, Branford, CT 06405.
Volunteers for the smART Fest event are welcome, email firstname.lastname@example.org