WEST SPRINGFIELD — Marking a decade of championing the city’s culture, tastes, and traditions, It’s West Springfield Inc., a local nonprofit celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, will host a “Marketplace Emporium” as this year’s edition of WinterFest.

Featuring a diverse array of crafters, vendors, artisans and authors, the free community event is slated for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 18, at the Dante Club at 1198 Memorial Ave., West Springfield. Putting a fun new twist on the typical commerce fair, the marketplace concept will not only encourage local shopping, but will also showcase small businesses who don’t have a storefront or other physical location to shop.

“We want to introduce our businesses, and hope they have repeat business as a result,” said It’s West Springfield President Roberta Page, a lifelong city resident and a former educator at West Springfield High School.

Unlike last year’s WinterFest, which drew residents and visitors to locations throughout the city’s business district, this year’s event is a bit more condensed.

“I wanted to have everything under one roof this time,” Page said. “It will be whimsical and magical but also educational and informational.”

A highlight of the event will be a gift card auction with items donated by local businesses, including the Majestic Theater, Bella Napoli Restaurant, and Caffeine’s Midtown, among others. Local photographer Benny Blanco, of Benny B. Designs, will be offering professional headshot photographs for a nominal fee.

Entertainment will be provided by Jim Kulik of West Springfield-based Kuls Konnection mobile disc jockey services. “Boomer,” the avian mascot for the Springfield Thunderbirds hockey team, will also be on hand, bringing along some Thunderbirds swag. Six Flags New England is also expected to participate.

Tapping into years of experience working in public relations — Page worked for Friendly’s Ice Cream Corp. and Westvaco, handling store openings for the former and new product launches for the latter — and inspired by the success of local nonprofit The Spirit of Springfield, she launched It’s West Springfield in 2014 to “enrich, enhance, and improve” the quality of life for all residents.

“I’ve always been fascinated with culture and people and what makes a community tick,” she said.

For the past 10 years, It’s West Springfield has hosted an annual WinterFest celebration with an evolving theme; in 2014, to mark the town’s 240th birthday, the organization hosted a recreation of the first town meeting on March 23, 1774. Since then, the nonprofit has spearheaded town-wide beautification projects, sponsored fire safety and “Career Day” initiatives, and hosted veterans programming, among other endeavors.

“Everything we do is free and open to the public,” Page said.

That’s a direct result of ongoing support from businesses like Big Y and M&T Bank, she noted.

“We have a lot of local businesses that believe in what we do,” said Page, including this year’s WinterFest host. “The Dante Club has been very gracious to partner with us,” she said. “They have always been very participatory.”

It’s West Springfield was also the recipient of a grant from the state Office of Travel and Tourism, which was secured through the efforts of state Sens. John Velis and Adam Gomez.

Since 2014, Page has been mentoring interns from West Springfield High School and Westfield State University, who help plan and execute It’s West Springfield’s event calendar.

“The interns have been extremely helpful,” Page said. “They are very industrious and willing to learn.”

Rich J. Wirth
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