ROCKVILLE – Music echoed through the streets of Town Square and white tents filled the streets with children’s activities for this weekend’s Hometown Holidays event.
The Hometown Holidays event started in the 1980s. The mayor at the time, Doug Duncan, began the tradition to celebrate the city of Rockville and Memorial Day.
“It was a way to celebrate Memorial Day, it was a way to celebrate the City of Rockville and it was to give people an alternative (for) those who didn’t go to the beach something really fun to do in their hometown,” said Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton.
Newton also said this event is the most widely attended and community supported event in the city. She also mentioned the parade on Monday is the largest parade that occurs in Montgomery County.
“We bring people from all over. It’s just a great way to celebrate all that makes Rockville great,” Newton said.
Colleen McQuitty, the special events manager for the city, said approximately 60,000 people attended last year’s Hometown Holidays event.
She said she expected the same amount of people attended this year.
According to Newton, the event is divided into multiple parts. Saturday and Sunday consist of festivities, including a “beach” on Middle Lane and live entertainment. Twenty-five local restaurants also participated in the event.
Monday consists of early morning entertainment before the parade starts.
“There are different parts to the weekend. You have the social and fun and festival atmosphere. And then you have the solemnity on Monday. And then you go back to the parade which is also a way to honor all of our constituencies and a lot of the nonprofit groups and the cultural groups in the city,” Newton said.
Newton said several roads were closed for this event, including Middle Lane, Maryland Avenue, Gibbs Street, Monroe Street and East Montgomery Avenue.
Thirty bands played throughout the weekend, including headliners Lucie Silvas, The Nighthawks, Radio Bird, The Trongone Band, The 8 Ohms Band, of Tomorrow and the RTC Dancers.
The Rockville Children’s Choir took away the show on Monday morning.
Four stages hosted the live entertainment along Maryland Avenue, Hungerford Drive, East Middle Lane and in Town Square.
According to Rockville Recreation and Parks Director Tim Chesnutt, planning the event takes the entire year.
Chesnutt also said planning next year’s Hometown Holidays event will begin next week.
“They will start planning for next year the week after it’s done. But it really starts ramping up about nine months in advance and then six months in advance another notch and hopefully by the time you get to three months out, they’ve gotten all of the stuff that you can plan in advance taken care of,” Chesnutt said.
McQuitty said she and the Recreation and Parks Department also communicate the Planning Department regarding any new potential developments that might take place in Rockville.
Six months in advance, the representatives from Recreation and Parks Department arranges contracts for the musicians and food vendors.
“We look at different festivals around the area to see what types of bands we’d like to bring out to the next Hometown Holidays (event) and then we end up booking those, normally, in December,” McQuitty said.
For the parade, McQuitty said the department representatives reach out to several organizations in April. Seventy “units” participate in the parade.
“We get all kinds (of units). We get military units; we get some marching bands, some cultural groups that come out and then boy scouts groups that like to come out,” McQuitty said.
Chesnutt said the event costs about $230,000 each year. He said the revenue from the event amounts to $1.5 million.
For local resident Colleen Evans, who has gone to the event each year for about four or five years, said though she enjoys some of the new food, she would like for the fountain to open up again from last year where some of the chairs were this weekend.
“I wish they kept the fountain open, it was hot yesterday. That fountain was awesome. I would have run through it for the first time,” Evans said.
Evans said she also enjoyed the entertainment and the people involved did a “good job” putting the event together.
Local resident Milgun Clarke liked the different types of food she saw and how it wasn’t food exclusively from Rockville.
“There’s more variety with the food this year. I mean there are restaurants that are not actually (in) Rockville that have come. I like that,” Clarke said.
Simmi Gonsalves, who worked at the Saffron Indian Cuisine tent, said the crowd appeared different from last year.
“This is my second year. This year I think the crowd changed; there’s a lot less people than there was before. But I think that has to do with the weather,” Gonsalves said.
Gonsalves also said the weekend started off slow for the vendors before suddenly becoming really busy.
Susan Notar, who attended Hometown Holidays for the first time this year, said she enjoyed the atmosphere.
“It’s kind of low-key. I like that you can hear all types of music. It’s kind of nice, (there are) different kinds people,” Notar said.