Soupstock Music & Arts Festival

Shannon Livewell

One thing I have always loved about the summer months are the amazing outdoor festivals, concerts and fairs that result from the warm weather. Depending on where you live, there are many different things to do and see. My hometown is famous for its summer carnivals. As soon as you see the Ferris wheel being set up in the local mall parking lot, you know that school is almost coming to a close, and warm nights at the beach are just around the corner.

With the warm weather ascending on Connecticut comes many festivals, the largest of which is Soupstock Music & Arts Festival in Shelton, Conn. The festival will take place on Saturday, June 8, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Pavilion in Veteran’s Park. The event will have free admission to the public and is a benefit for the Mary A. Schmecker Turtle Shell Fund—“Furthering Art, Craft and Music Education for Children and Young Adults.”

In anticipation to find out more about this event, I was able to interview Derek Signore, the Marketing Director for the Soupstock Festival and one of its founders.

“Soupstock actually came about from a conversation we had a few years ago at Liquid Lunch. One of our employees suggested we hold a soup cook-off and call it Soup-a-palooza or Soupstock,” said Signore. “That idea stuck with us and when Fred and I started the Turtle Shell fund, we knew that our largest annual fundraiser would be called Soupstock. We asked my brother Joe to help us organize the event and together we created the festival for the first year. From then on, with the added help of Nicole Heriot, the festival has grown into what it is today—a celebration of artistic expression in our community.”

“Shelton, CT is our hometown and we are extremely proud of our community. The Veteran’s memorial park is the perfect location because of its size and accessibility. It makes us so proud to be able to celebrate the beauty of our community right in the very heart of our community,” he further added.

This is the fourth annual celebration of the event, so it is easy to see how successful they have been in creating a memorable event. Not only does this even include arts and craft showcases, but it also features live music and a cook-off. Performers at this year’s festival also include Vermont Funk troupe The Main Squeeze, Will Evans & Jeff Howard of Barefoot Truth and McLovins fame, local favorites The Alpaca Gnomes, Hubinger Street, Old School, Bobby Paltauf Band, Wandering Roots, festival staple Newton Crosby, The Nameless Trio, Terri Lynn, Hannah Fair, Back From Earth and The String Fingers Band.

“Joe Manganello and Nicole Heriot are immersed in the local music scene and have a great knowledge of really good musical talent. Together, they formulate an awesome and diverse lineup between two stages. It rocks. Literally,” said Signore when inquired about how the musical lineup was constructed.

The cook-off will be another entertaining event of the day’s festivities where participants from all over Southern Connecticut will compete for the coveted Soupstock title. Each cook will make a large kettle of soup ready for all attendees to inspect and taste.

Members of the public can make a small donation to the Turtle Shell Fund and become a ‘Schmecker’ (that’s literally German for ‘taster’). Your donation gets you a pass to taste the soup all day long. Once you’ve tried them all, you can vote for your favorites and go back for seconds.

I asked Signore if they had a specific target audience. I explained that many festivals in the West and New Haven areas target college students because four major colleges and universities surround the area. Signore agreed with this target audience, but broadened it a bit. “We love families. We love music lovers. Our organization is all about fostering creative expression in young people, so we want to reach as many young people as possible,” he said.

It is clear that the festival’s main goal is to showcase local talent while creating a sense of community, which is something really crucial to building a lasting and memorable event.

Due to the strong sense of community this event evokes, there are many local businesses that have remained constant stakeholders in the event for the past four years,

“Each year has had its own personality, but there are a few sponsors who have believed in us from the beginning, including Recipe of Success, LLC and The Valley Community Foundation,” Signore explained. “However, that is only to name a few. There are many sponsors that help make this event possible each year.”

If you think that this event is something you would be interested in not only attending, but also volunteering for, then there are many ways to get involved, and you can contact the festival at www.soupstockfestival.org. This could be a great opportunity for music students to gain experience with live sound/performance experience, or even majors such as hospitality and business to be involved firsthand with the building a successful, large-scale local event.

“Every year, we keep growing and it takes more people to organize the event. We are finding that with each year that passes, more people want to volunteer. This makes us feel great and we are currently at the point to where we are organizing departments and assigning team leaders for each department,” Signore said. It is clear that this would be the type of event that could give any volunteer hands-on experience and a feeling of accomplishment.

Soupstock is all about community and fostering local talent to showcase the achievements of those who dedicate their life to arts and music. It is rare to find festivals such as this anymore, which are family friendly yet equally entertaining for an audience of any age. Being that this event will be held so close to school, it would also be an amazing opportunity to either volunteer or to attend and feel a sense of community where it matters most.

Established in 2010, the Soupstock Festival has grown organically into one of Connecticut’s leading independent arts and music events. The festival has earned its reputation by attracting premier talent across all mediums to provide a landscape meant to please all the senses (and comparatively, all ages).

This is an event where people of all ages can join together and enjoy great music, local art, amazing food and outdoor fun for a great cause. Soupstock Arts & Music Festival is only growing in size and popularity with each passing year, and by attending you would be able to say you aided in helping a good thing grow.