The Bedford Cultural District Music and Arts Festival transformed the Common into a bubble of casual creativity and congeniality for a five-hour window on Saturday.

A steady stream of residents and visitors covering three and maybe even four generations sampled wide-ranging musical and artistic offerings and took advantage of plenty of opportunities for conversation.

The Bedford Cultural District tent on the west side of the church was unofficial headquarters. That’s where Eric Salerno, whose portfolio as economic development director includes the district, was stationed. Not far away was Jeff King, his predecessor, who “retired” more than three months ago but keeps showing up to help.

“I was so glad to see the Cultural District’s vision for the event come to fruition in such an impressive way,” Salerno said after the event. 

Added Barb Purchia, one of the drivers of the original Cultural District formation, “I’m thrilled with the success of the festival.”

Across the path was the Bedford Chamber of Commerce booth. Chamber Executive Director Chet Harding, whose background includes performing, served as master of ceremonies for the day’s events.

Wearing that hat, he introduced five local musical groups playing consecutive one-hour sets. The musicians were beneath another large tent while spectators could choose frontal seating in the sun or chairs in a shady spot to the side.

“Mark Guetersloh had the sound system dialed in just right for the audience on the lawn and so the music could be enjoyed as far as the patio of Ken’s NY Deli across from the Common,” Salerno said. Guetersloh is a longtime member of the Community Media Committee. The musical component was organized by Sylvia Mallory.

Interactive projects were popular destinations. The big draw was a much-promoted handmade sign project depicting the theme of the day, “Imagine,” originated by Chris Wojnar. Amateur artists young and old decorated pre-cut poster board. Many of the kids said they would be installing what they made in their own front yards. 

Beginning on July 1, several of those signs will be installed along the Narrow Gauge Rail Trail between Loomis Street and The Great Road for the summer months. 

“This will be our first art walk in the Bedford Cultural District,” Purchia noted. 

Alongside “Imagine” was the familiar Kindness Rock project, where children and adults inscribed inspirational messages on stone surfaces, to be shared in public places such as the rail trail. 

The crafts tables, most of which were staffed by artists from Bedford and nearby towns, displayed a range of media: ceramics, wicker, jewelry, Asian brush cut, wood, pottery, stained glass. 

Bedford businesses connected to the theme as part of the scene on the Common: Art Spark, Leonard Music, Purple Pencil. The Garden Club and Patrons of Music Students were among the community groups represented.

“This wonderful event could not have happened without cooperation between volunteers, the Chamber of Commerce, and town staff across multiple departments,” Salerno said. “The members of the Cultural District and Cultural Council put their passion into creating this event.”

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