Timpanelli ready for action as Barnum Festival Ringmaster

Paul Timpanelli is ready for the all action now. The Trumbull resident is the 66th Ringmaster of the annual Barnum Festival and he will be officially handed the “trappings of office” on Friday.

He will be handed the three tools at the annual “Whip, Whistle and Watch Luncheon,” the event named for the three tools of the Ringmaster’s office.

The event will take place Friday, May 16 at the Bridgeport Holiday Inn, and although he was named to the post back in October 2013 the real action kicks off now.

“I view this as a great opportunity,” Timpanelli said recently from his 14th floor office at 10 Middle Street in Bridgeport. “I was honored to be named Ringmaster and I have been engaged with the festival for a long time. What a lot of people don’t realize is that one of the primary responsibilities of the Ringmaster is raising money. So along with planning that’s mostly what I’ve been doing. So when I receive the trappings of office that’s when things will really get rolling.”

The ringmaster, a former Trumbull first selectman, is probably best as known as the President and CEO of the Bridgeport Regional Business Council (BRBC), the largest business organization in the region comprised of six affiliates: Bridgeport, Stratford and Trumbull Chambers of Commerce, Bridgeport Economic Development Corporation, Leadership Greater Bridgeport and the Women’s Leadership Council. The organization is charged with increasing economic opportunities for the Bridgeport region by acting to create an environment for business expansion, retention, and recruitment that will result in tax base growth and jobs growth.

This year’s festival is being co-sponsored by the BRBC for the first time but this partnership began last year when the organization hired a consultant to study how the Barnum Festival can be greatly improved.

One recommendation has been to add an executive director and that position has been filled in the person of Elaine Ficarra. The Milford resident had been communications director for Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch since he was first elected in 2007 and has also been heavily involved with the New Haven Festival of Arts and Ideas.

“Hiring an Executive Director was their primary recommendation and our main goal was to redefine and revitalize the festival,” Timpanelli said. “Our goal is for the Barnum Festival to be an economic development creator for our city. We want to attract people to the festival from wider geographies. We want to attract people from cities such as Springfield, Albany and Worcester.”

To that end, the Barnum Festival has increased its marketing budgeting and is targeting areas outside of Connecticut. Timpanelli has also been instrumental in tightening up the festival events, compacting was has generally been a schedule of events that has been spread out over a course of a few months to a calendar that is essentially two weeks long. The opening event will be the annual Wing Ding Parade on June 14 and will close on June 29 with the Great Street Parade.

“We really think that we will bring back an excellent parade,” said the Ringmaster. “We will have five marching bands from the Champions on Parade, which is being held the night before. We will also be having three tribute bands stationed along the route for more entertainment, a U2 tribute band, a Latin band and a Journey tribute band.”

There are other new wrinkles in the 2014 Barnum Festival. There will be a “fringe circus” at various events with circus acts performing at traditional venues such as the Pub Fest and Barnum Sails the Sound. There will be a Barnum Bobblehead Night at the Bluefish on Saturday June 28, and a particular favorite of Timpanelli’s is the Bridgeport Symphony Pops Concert and Barnum Skyblast, which will be held on Friday June 27.

“This is brand new this year and it’s a free event,” he said. “The Bridgeport Symphony will be giving a free concert at Seaside Park; people can bring a picnic, enjoy the concert and then watch the fireworks. It’s going to be a great event.”

This year the Barnum Festival will also focus on the man it honors far more than in the past. P.T. Barnum was far more than a circus impresario. He was also Mayor of Bridgeport, a member of the Connecticut State Legislature, the founder of Bridgeport Hospital and the driving force behind the creation of Seaside Park and Mountain Grove Cemetery to name a few of his accomplishments. And, oh yeah, he was also buddies with Abraham Lincoln and Mark Twain, among others.

“It’s about getting people excited about the life of someone who was so much more than people realize,” Timpanelli said. “We’re educating children about P.T. Barnum and that’s important. But ultimately the Barnum Festival is about having fun and that’s important too.”