It’s not every day that a town turns 338 years old. But Bristol Borough has accomplished this impressive feat. It survived those questionable years that saw a mostly-vacant Mill Street, and came out on the other side stronger than ever.
Such a milestone deserves celebration, which is why the Bristol Cultural & Historical Foundation is once again hosting its Historic Bristol Day to honor one of Pennsylvania’s oldest towns. Set for Saturday, Oct. 19, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., the 43rd annual event sheds light on the borough’s rich history while simultaneously showcasing all that’s new, with free entertainment and activities for all ages scheduled throughout the day.
According to Nick Rizzo, event chairperson, Historic Bristol Day typically draws between 6,000-8,000 attendees from across Bucks County. That number has steadily increased following the borough’s Small Business Revolution makeover by Deluxe Corporation in 2017.
“Every couple of years, it seems like this day just gets bigger and bigger. It grows,” Rizzo said. “If you haven’t been here before, or haven’t been here in a while, it’s definitely changed. There’s been a resurgence over the past few years, especially in the business district.”
Guests are encouraged to check out the variety of new stores and restaurants that have opened their doors along Mill Street, while also learning about and embracing Bristol’s past, which Rizzo said is the sole mission of the BCHF – an all-volunteer nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving Bristol’s history.
The BCHF is particularly excited about this year’s event because of an all-new feature – a boat display hosted by the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the Antique and Classic Boat Society. This is scheduled in place of the traditional “tall ship” appearance on the Delaware River.
“It still highlights the riverfront and the water and the docks,” Rizzo said. “They will be displaying a variety of antique boats from, I believe, 1945-1975 in the Wharf area, and possibly in the water along the docks if weather-dependent.”
Historic Bristol Day is mostly contained to the 200 and 300 blocks of Radcliffe St. and the Riverfront Park, though attendees can expect shops, eateries, churches and more throughout the borough to participate in the festivities.
Returning to Historic Bristol Day for the eighth year is the antique auto show, which will take place at Snyder-Girotti Elementary School, 450 Beaver St.
“It’s been a very successful part of the day because it draws a whole new audience, a whole new crowd that may not have previously attended such an event. They go to the car show, and they can take the shuttle or drive over to the riverfront area, or vice versa,” Rizzo said.
The auto show runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Event-goers can vote for their favorite car, with awards distributed at approximately 3:30 p.m. Those interested in displaying their car can register at 9 a.m. that day for $15.
Additional activities include: a sailboat regatta on the river; walking tours along tree-lined Radcliffe Street; street entertainment; an archeological dig at Friends Meeting, 235 Market St.; American Revolutionary War encampment in Riverfront Park; children’s corner, including a presentation on Native Americans by Snyder-Girotti students at 11 a.m. at the Grundy Library, 680 Radcliffe St.; an art exhibit and demonstration by the Artists of Bristol on the Delaware; “History of St. Mark Church” by students of St. Mark School at 11:30 a.m. at 1025 Radcliffe St.; crafters and merchandise vendors; a bake sale; a food court behind Bristol Riverside Theatre; a concert at 11:30 a.m. at the gazebo by the Bracken Cavaliers Drum & Bugle Alumni Corps of Bristol; and a performance by the Stepping Stone Dancers, from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m., also at the gazebo.
”There’s activities for people of all ages with a variety of interests, besides history,” Rizzo said.
The only Historic Bristol Day event that requires a purchased ticket is the House Tour and Tea, which costs $12 in advance, or $15 on the day of the event. From 12:30 to 2:30 p.m., guests can enjoy tea by the river while being serenaded by a harpist, followed by a tour of five private homes with a Colonial-costumed “meet-and-greet.”
Homes included on the tour are: 202 Jefferson Ave., which was built circa 1914-1915 on land purchased in 1911; 507 Radcliffe St., which features decorative wood details – an architectural style common of the Victorian Gothic Revival; 715 Radcliffe St., the architectural style of which is from the Greek Revival; 719 Radcliffe St., which will feature a display of antique washboards and a private collection of antique children’s shoes; and 725 Radcliffe St., which boasts a massive porch that sweeps from the south façade across the front.
Advance tickets for the House Tour and Tea are available at the Bristol Borough Tax Office, 250 Pond St.; Mignoni Jewelry, 200 Mill St.; Great IDs, 257 Radcliffe St.; and the Grundy Library, 680 Radcliffe St. On the day of the event, tickets will be available at the Tickets & Info table at the corner of Radcliffe and Market streets, and Radcliffe and Walnut streets.
Free parking and shuttle transportation is available at Dow Chemical Company’s Otter Creek lot on Old Route 13 (north of the plant’s main entrance) and Lenox parking lot at 1414 Radcliffe St. Look for event parking and shuttle signs. The event is rain or shine. Visit bristolhistory.org for more information. ••
Samantha Bambino can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org