Photograph: Mike Thut
Think Memorial Day, and you can smell the barbeques, see the American flag, hear the parades and—in these parts—look forward to the Greenwich Town Party (GTP). In its fifth year, the celebration for Greenwich residents has become the hottest ticket in town (General admission tickets for the May 23 event sold out in five hours).
The idea for the party came in 2010 when Ray Dalio and his wife, Barbara, were visiting Spain and experienced several town fiestas. The image of these celebrations, in which everyone contributed, stayed with them. One night over drinks with his friend Mark Vallely, Ray floated the idea of creating a similar celebration for Greenwich. With the blessing of town officials, the GTP was born. “The concept is simple,” says Vallely, president of the GTP. “Yes, it’s about music and food and kids’ activities. But it’s also about giving back to the community, whether by sponsoring, donating or volunteering.”
From the outset, the GTP was an unqualified success: The inaugural event easily maxed out Roger Sherman Baldwin Park’s 5,000-person capacity. Performers included the Temptations, Little Feat and headliner Buddy Guy. In 2012, the year Paul Simon headlined, tickets sold out in a week. In 2013, when James Taylor came to town, tickets were gone in minutes. In order to meet the growing demand, organizers expanded the party into a two-venue event, at Roger Sherman Baldwin Park and Havemeyer Park. With Santana as the featured attraction, the party reached its 10,000-person capacity. In the process, though, the sense of one town, one party was lost. “The whole point of celebrating community is being together,” says Vallely.
The party continues to evolve. Regulars will see some changes—some subtle, some obvious. For one thing, the party is back to its original venue. For another, there is a new website and a more cohesive marketing campaign. The local heroes campaign (see box) is new. As is the $250 Neighbor ticket (previously known as the $400 Fair Share ticket). “It’s a friendlier and more community oriented term,” says event manager Scot Weicker. “It also most accurately reflects the actual cost to go to an event of this magnitude.” Neighbor ticket holders have designated parking and access to an area with drinks and snacks. Of course, there are sponsor packages available, as well.
“Five years ago we could only dream this,” says Vallely. “Today we’re exactly where we want to be.”
You Can Be My Hero
The GTP’s Campaign for Community is an opportunity for Greenwich residents to give a shout-out to the unsung heroes in their lives—whether a teacher, coach, volunteer or a neighbor. “It’s a way to recognize people who are making a difference,” says Sara Allard, cofounder of Case Study Brands, “whether their contributions are big or small.” To nominate someone, go to the GTP Facebook page, post a photo and a story, and add #GTPheroes. For now, heroes can be found on the GTP website and social media outlets; plans are in the works for a display the day of the party.