Think about the key ingredients for a memorable outdoor party—great food, good friends and, of course, a stellar playlist. This year’s GREENWICH TOWN PARTY (GTP) will serve up all that and more when gates open at 10 a.m. on Saturday, May 25 at Roger Sherman Baldwin Park. Now in its ninth year, the celebration has become a favorite way to kick off summer. And what better way to celebrate than with this year’s main-stage bands, including musical icons Lynyrd Skynyrd, known for their Southern rock vibe (think “Free Bird,” “Sweet Home Alabama” and “What’s Your Name”) and the Beach Boys, whose rock ’n’ roll classics (“Surfer Girl,” “Fun, Fun, Fun” and “Good Vibrations”) speak to multiple generations. Also appearing: Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, back for their third appearance; Greenwich native and rising country star, Caroline Jones, back for her fourth time, the first with her full band; and 8Track Band, back for their second time.
“We always try to put together a lineup that appeals to a cross-section of the community,” says Ray Rivers, GTP copresident. “We want these big iconic bands. Whether Paul Simon or Eric Clapton or Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Beach Boys, we want to tick off the great names while we still can.”
The family-friendly, all-day event also features performances by six local bands, activities geared toward kids (face-painting, bouncy castles and stilt walkers), and plenty of food for all ages and palates (everything from barbecue and seafood to homemade cupcakes and ice cream).
After nearly a decade, the party’s backstory is firmly etched into town lore. In 2010 Ray Dalio, founder of Bridgewater Associates, first floated the idea of putting together a community-wide celebration modeled after the ones he and his wife Barbara had attended while visiting her relatives in Spain. He envisioned a party modeled after a potluck dinner in which everyone contributes something. Dalio and a friend came up with the idea for the Greenwich Town Party at their club one night. The next year, about 5,000 people bought tickets for a show that featured Chicago bluesman Buddy Guy. Since that initial event, the GTP has taken on a life of its own, becoming a well-oiled machine with a four-person board and a team of volunteers and professionals that handle all the logistics from booking talent and marketing the event to organizing vendors and ticket sales.
And speaking of ticket sales, for this year’s festivities organizers tried something new: instead of a one-day online sale for steeply discounted general admission tickets, organizers instituted a lottery. Everyone that was eligible to buy tickets—residents or people who work in town—had three months to enter. The lottery picked the winners at random in October. “Some people in the community had said, ‘Why don’t you pick names out of a hat?’ We had been thinking of changes along those lines, so that’s essentially what the lottery did,” says Rivers.
In keeping with the original mission of “mutual generosity,” the biggest challenge has been, and continues to be, convincing attendees to throw a little extra into the pot, if they can afford it. For some, that means springing for Neighbor and Sponsor passes (still available as of press time). At $500, for instance, the Neighbor Pass reflects the true cost of a ticket for an event of this magnitude. For others, that means stepping up as volunteers or giving an extra $10.
As for the party itself? “We’ve been thrilled,” says Rivers. “When Ray Dalio came up with the idea, he provided a financial backstop with the hope that the community would embrace it and eventually meet him halfway. Thankfully, the support base has grown every year, including more sponsorships, which means the more great iconic bands we can get. Some people are under the impression that we are about making money. We’re not. Ticket sales only cover a fraction of event costs. The remainder of the budget is taken care of by generous donations. Without the support of our neighbors and sponsors, the event would not be able to continue. The objective of the party is to bring the community together to have a good time and celebrate our town.”
Know Before You Go
GATES OPEN AT 10 A.M.
Children’s activities run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Activities include face painting, caricature artists, roaming performers, bounce houses, and arts and crafts.
Music starts at 2 p.m. and goes until 10 p.m.
General admission tickets, which sold out by lottery in October, cost $85, and senior tickets are $25. Still available as of press time: Neighbor passes, $500, which include access to a neighbor area sponsored by Houlihan Lawrence with light fare and beverages, and designated parking on Steamboat Road Sponsor passes, $1,500, which include access to a sponsor tent with catered food and drinks, as well as designated parking in the Island Beach lot. Children twelve and under are free but must have a valid ticket for entrance.
Only Greenwich residents, Greenwich business owners and employees of local businesses may buy GTP tickets; identification is required at time of pickup.
Food and beverages will be available for purchase from twelve local food vendors. Attendees are welcome to bring picnics and beverages, but no alcohol is allowed on the premises.
GTP Inc. covers the cost for all town services involved with the event.
Greenwich Green & Clean provides small trash bags to every attendee to help facilitate the after-party cleanup.
No tarps, no blankets, no tables, no tents. Only folding chairs and beach towels permitted for seating in the designated seating section on the field.