History of the Mum Festival

The Bristol Mum Festival is an annual festival which includes the Mum Parade. The festival celebrates chrysanthemums, formerly a major product of the town, and was first held on Sunday, October 7, 1962. Opening ceremonies kicked off the celebration, now known as the Bristol Mum Festival. Amidst the floral carpet of the former Bristol Nurseries on Chippens Hill. Ralph Joerres, the first Chairman of the Festival opened the festivities inviting everyone to the first Open House events which were welcoming Bristolites to the American Clock & Watch Museum, Bristol Water Company and the newly remodeled North Side Bank & Trust Company. Members of the Chamber of Commerce and City of Bristol officials met and completed a six-day long schedule of events aiming to focus attention on the many positive factors in Bristol. Many felt there is a great deal to be proud of in Bristol and the spotlight should be turned onto the things too frequently taken for granted.  When the festival opened it was originally known as the Fall Festival. In 1963 the Chrysanthemum (mum) was also added to the festival’s name. Prior to 1986 (when production stopped), the nurseries in Bristol produced over 80,000 mum plants, with acres of land covered in mums.  During the festival over 10,000 people would visit the nurseries.

The annual gala function, was later sponsored by the Greater Bristol Chamber of Commerce, accents the arts, theater, music, dance, and athletics. The festival was expanded and spanned over three weeks of activities and events.  A Parade, Carnival, Food Festival and several other activities ran two full weekends.   It was later reorganized as its own entity, the Bristol Chrysanthemum Festival, Inc.  The festival was again reformatted and included a parade and family farms weekends.  The Family Farms Weekend was later dropped, and a one day event was held on the street of Memorial Boulevard.  In 2015, the dedicated volunteer organization had decided to disband, and thanks to the Exchange Club of Bristol Connecticut Incorporated, and the City of Bristol, the historic festival continued.   In 2016, the festival was renamed the Bristol Mum Festival, and is directed the Bristol Exchange Club, and its benefactor is the City of Bristol.  The festival is also supported by several generous sponsors.  The new organization has restored many of the original components, like four full days of festivities, which included the Mum Parade, return of the Miss Mum Pageant, Art & Jazz Gala, return of the vendor fair, food & truck fest, Adult Beverage Garden, Kid’s Depot, Car Show, Horse and Hay Rides, Movie night, Fireworks, Mumathon Road Race, and several other great activities.

This bringing together of activities truly demonstrates that people can gather together to produce a “happening” of which the City of Bristol can well be proud. The Mum Festival has been expanded to include programs of variety and excitement again reiterating the seriousness which reflects true community interests.

One of the most rewarding things about the Mum Festival is that people from all backgrounds and interests have an opportunity to combine efforts. The Bristol area is filled with talent and creativity and its residents are enjoying an opportunity to display it. The ultimate success of the festival is provided by the delight, enjoyment and excitement experienced by the thousands who attend the events that combine to become the Bristol Mum Festival.

(supporting information for this article is from Wikipedia, The Bristol Press, and current Mum Festival Committee members)

The following is an excerpt from the Bristol Press, Sept 29th, 1972

Why does Bristol hold a Chrysanthemum festival and what gives the city the right to claim the title “Mum City, U.S.A.?”

For thousands of people who annually view the plush six-acre carpet of brilliant color that graces Chippens Hill each Fall, the answer is obvious. for, thanks to the Bristol nurseries and its world famous chrysanthemums, Bristol is truly the Mum capital of the world.

The Bristol Nurseries have been a local attraction for over 50 years and long before the concept of the Chrysanthemum Festival was dreamed of, the Bristol Nurseries were delighting thousands with their annual fall display. Today (during the Fall festival), on a good Sunday, the Nurseries will host nearly 10,000 visitors from many states who have come to see the famous mums in display.

Each fall, over 80,000 plants put forth their brilliant blossoms from late September through the end of October. Many of the blooms have been developed at the Bristol Nurseries where annually 5 to 7 new varieties are introduced. This year there will be over 115 different varieties on display.  The chrysanthemum Festival, which grew out of the mum display, annually reaches its conclusion with the ceremonies held amidst the mums at the Nurseries on Pinehurst Road. But while the Mum Festival ends about October 15, the display continues in all its brilliance until November I, when the plants are cut down to begin the yearly cycle of the chrysanthemum development.

The Bristol Nurseries was incorporated in 1920 by Paul Hubbard and Alex Cumming.  About 1948, Arthur C. Bird, who had been a manager of the landscaping dept., bought out the interests of Hubbard and turned the real emphasis on the chrysanthemum. Bird’s sons now continue the work of their father.

Editor’s Note:

Though the Bristol Nurseries went out of the major mum business in 1986, we believe that the annual fall display of Mum Festival activities in all its color and delights gives Bristol entitlement to the “Mum City, U.S.A.” claim for ever more!

Mum Festival1962