Now in its 35th year, the Meriden Daffodil Festival has become just as much about Connecticut music as the ubiquitous yellow blossoms that will bring an estimated 100,000 people to the Silver City next weekend.
Robert DeRosa, tasked with organizing the festival’s musical lineup, says the live entertainment is part of the festival’s history.
Since DeRosa took the reins 14 years ago, the festival’s lineup has grown to encompass 36 acts across three stages in two days. With such a huge crowd at the free event at Hubbard Park, performing at Daffodil Festival is a feather in the cap of Connecticut bands and a mecca for local music buffs.
“It’s exciting when people feel that way about our festival,” says DeRosa. “It’s like the local Glastonbury [British Music Festival], people feel it’s worth running around stage to stage. Even if you can only catch a half hour of each act, you’re seeing a lot of music over two days.”
DeRosa says his driving force in crafting the line up is simply trying to one-up the previous year.
“Every year at the end of it I think ‘Well I can’t do any better than that, I’ll have to settle for a tie,'” DeRosa quipped. “Then every year I somehow pull something out to make it exciting again.”
This year’s ace in the hole is Mark Mulcahy, a Connecticut native and Daffodil Festival veteran. First gaining recognition as frontman of Miracle Legion, Mulcahy had a successful solo career before taking a hiatus to deal with a personal tragedy, the 2008 death of his wife, Melissa Rich, leaving Mulcahy to raise their young twin daughters.
Mulcahy recently released his first new solo material in years, started playing out again, and will headline on The Welcome Stage the first night of this year’s festival.
“He was one of the people I repeated a lot, because people would ask all year long ‘you having Mulcahy back, is Mulcahy back?'” said DeRosa. “It was one of his only Connecticut gigs each year, and people would come from all over the place.”
DeRosa says he tries to bring in new acts every year, though some performers return by popular demand. River City Slim And The Zydeco Hogs are recurring faces, and The Reducers were regulars before bassist Steve Kaika died last year. Frank Critelli has played the festival for more than a decade, and says he’s seen the event grow over the years.
“As I’ve observed the whole thing over 14 years I think its gotten increasingly better,” Critelli said. “When they went to all Connecticut acts, that just made it even cooler in my eyes. Every year I feel like it gets bigger and better.”
Buzz-worthy acts worth seeing at this year’s festival include raucous The Guru, lo-fi melodies from Elison Jackson, the film noir drenched Daphne Lee Martin, and singer-songwriters Hannah Fair as well as Becky Kessler & Floyd Kellogg. More guitar rock includes blues rock sounds from The Manchurians, epic prog jams of 1974, and pop punkers Hostage Calm.
This year’s lineup includes a big nod to families at the festival, with PBS star Steve Roslonek who performs his SteveSongs! show Sunday. “He’s an award-winning kids music star on PBS, and it’s a free show of him which normally is $20 or more.” says DeRosa. Sunday also features wrist bands for unlimited carnival rides, or as DeRosa says “all you can ride, right until you puke.”
Frank Critelli, a Meriden resident, says the diversity of the Daffodil Festival acts is great for fellow musicians and helps to put his town on the map.
“Sometimes there’s nothing really happening here… it’s not someplace you would really think of as a destination. But I feel like the Daffodil Festival makes it a Connecticut destination for a weekend, and that always feels really good.”
THE MERIDEN DAFFODIL FESTIVAL is at Hubbard Park, 999 Main St., on Saturday, April 27, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Sunday, April 28, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Admission is free. For more information on festival parking, shuttles to the park, and more festival information visit www.daffodilfest.com.