Rails to Trails moves entirely downtown this year

If you’re looking for the fun and excitement of Rails To Trails this year, don’t head to Highland Park. You won’t find anything there.

Watertown’s annual summer festival will be almost entirely contained to Lewis Avenue and the downtown area this year, save for the golf tournament and the 5K run. Everything else — even the car show — will take place downtown.

“When people talk about Watertown, what makes Watertown unique is that downtown is right on the river,” said Dr. Scott Jensen, the coordinator for Rails To Trails. “We’ve got the riverwalk, so we might as well bring the whole thing downtown.”

Organizers began the push to better highlight Watertown’s downtown area last year when they re-introduced a Friday night street dance. However, other events, including live music on Saturday night, kid’s games, the food court and the car show were still held at Highland Park.

Jensen described Highland Park as a nice setting, but said it was under utilized during the festival, and that nothing that was done at Highland Park couldn’t be done downtown in a more centralized location.

“Up at Highland, you had a lot of nice things,” Jensen said. You had a breeze coming across, and you had lots of open space. But we weren’t using the baseball field much, and we really didn’t have that much going on.”

In some recent years, the only downtown events during Rails To Trails were the Saturday afternoon parade, the Friday Watertown Hold ‘Em contest — where participants visit local businesses to earn playing cards to make up a poker hand — and the Historical Society’s annual display.

This year, downtown should be buzzing with activity starting with that Hold ‘Em event on Friday. The centralized location could help steer even more people into the Historical Society’s Display at the Community Center, which this year also features a short play from the River City Theatre Company. Jensen said the hope is that the downtown location also caters to local businesses.

“Were hoping we’ll get a sort of natural involvement of the Luce Line Lodge, the Riverside Bar, D’Vinci’s, Geneos, the grocery store, the pharmacy, and those types of things,” Jensen said.

One area business trying to make the most of the festival’s new emphasis on downtown is Legends on Main, the sports memorabilia and Italian Ice shop, which is hosting a 3-on-3 basketball tournament in the street. The “Blacktop Battle,” featuring two separate age divisions for both boys and girls, will be held on Saturday after the parade. More information on registering for the tournament can be found in the Rails To Trails preview on Pages 7-9.

Saturday’s parade will make its way through downtown Watertown at 11 a.m. Other downtown activities include the street dance — which once again will feature the Basement Band — on Friday night from 8-11:30 p.m. The car show will be held on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the parking lot behind D’Vincis.

Saturday’s live music will also be moved downtown this year. There will be a singer/songwriter showcase from 5-7 p.m., and Caleb Farber’s teen band will take the stage from 7-10 p.m., concluding with a fireworks display.

The toilet bowl races will also be moved downtown, and will be held at 7:30 p.m. on Friday. The popular children’s Waterball tournament will be held downtown from 5-8 p.m. Friday, with registration starting at 4 p.m.

Other downtown festivities including Bingo from 7-9 p.m. both nights in the Community Center, a magic show on the main stage at 4 p.m. Saturday, horse and trolley rides on Saturday afternoon, a kid’s fun zone on both days, and plenty of food vendors. The 5K will also start at the Luce Line bridge on Saturday morning at 8 a.m.


Contact Matt Bunke at [email protected]