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Rain holds off until Sailfest concludes

New London — Sunday's cloudy weather with constant threats of rain may have kept some away from Sailfest's concluding chapter, but many participants said the three-day event had been a success even if it was not as busy as last year.

"It's the calm after the storm," said Charlie King, owner of the Hive Skate Shop on State Street, who was selling sunglasses and T-shirts Sunday during his third Sailfest running a downtown booth.

"I think we are down a little bit because of the weather," said festival organizer Barbara Neff, who didn't have any crowd estimates yet. "The vendors are happy. We got a lot of positives about the fireworks."

Neff said a lot of folks held back coming downtown Saturday afternoon because of concerns that the fireworks might be canceled. But when folks learned the show was on, downtown was buzzing most of the evening.

On Sunday, the 39th annual Sailfest included visits to City Pier by the Mystic Whaler, a tall ship that makes the city home for the summer. The ship was giving rides to festival-goers much of the day.

People running booths said Saturday was definitely busier than Sunday.

"It's been kind of slow today," said Jenn O'Leary, who along with Lisa Bloom was hawking hot sauces by Sam & Oliver, a 2-year-old Guilford company attending Sailfest for the first time. "We're not even yet."

Carly Olson, a server for The Bistro on Bank Street, said the restaurant had done very well on Saturday, but Sunday was slow.

"It got crazy when the fireworks were starting," she said.

"We sold mad slices outside yesterday," laughed Kelly Anne Hulse, owner of Parade Pizza on Bank Street.

"Today is kind of slow," said Lorraine Badillo, owner of Lola's Fashion at the corner of Bank and State streets.

But Saturday, she said, was fantastic, "real busy."

Down the street a bit at Hygienic Art Park, some of the music reflected the weather. Pat Daddona, one of the performers, was introducing her song "The Other Side of Darkness" when she commented, "Thank you all for staying through the drizzle."

Rain came down a bit more forcefully but briefly late in the afternoon, causing a few vendors to close early. But for the most part, the food, games, music and fun continued without interruption despite cloudy skies. Officials did not report any major incidents.

Jan Franco, owner and designer for JMF Dezigns in North Attleboro, Mass., praised the event's organization, saying there were plenty of people on hand to help her set up.

"It's an incredibly diverse crowd," she said. "It's pretty seamless. I think it's well run."

Franco said she was a little disappointed in her sales, but promised she would be back because it was an enjoyable time with good people. A couple weeks previously, she displayed her handmade jewelry at a show at Mitchell College and enjoyed the results, she said.

Franco suggested that perhaps booths could be organized to place fine art in one area of downtown during Sailfest to better define different types of fare being sold. But Neff said she has been placing art-oriented booths near the Hygienic and is not planning to compete with the Mystic Outdoor Art Festival.

"This is New London," Neff said. "I'm not trying to be Mystic. We are who we are."



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