Drawing people from many towns
In front of the Darien Chamber of Commerce tent on Saturday, 11-year-old Paluma Dudas was deep in concentration.
She was trying to guess how many gumballs were in a large, clear jar — and she had a strategy.
“I’m going to count down and then around, and then try and multiply it,” she said, adding that she had won another gumball guessing contest in the past.
“I haven’t won this one but I belong to a club and there’s always a gumball contest at an Easter party, and I won that one year,” said Paluma, whose 7-year-old sister Pia was also trying to guess the number of gumballs.
“This jar is a different shape so it’s going to be harder,” Paluma added.
The Dudas sisters were at the annual Darien Sidewalk Sales and Family Fun Days, which took place all day Thursday, Friday, and Saturday under tents and inside shops on the Post Road, in the Goodwives and Noroton Heights shopping centers.
First County Bank was the title sponsor of the event, which drew large crowds from surrounding towns for all three days it was held.
Aside from many of the shops offering discounts of up to 70 percent, there were many free activities such as a Where’s Waldo treasure hunt, balloon creations by Mr. Bungles, a bouncy house, The Amazing Andy circus stilt walker, face painting, caricatures, a collectible car show, and live music by the Bob Button Band.
In addition, at the Darien Fire Station, children got to sit in and explore a fire truck and a police officer’s Harley Davidson motorcycle.
Teresa Jandziol, who was working at the Darien Chamber of Commerce tent, said guessing the correct number of gumballs is not easy. “It’s not always the number you think.”
The person who comes closest to the actual number of gumballs “wins the whole jar,” Jandziol said.
Darien resident Chris Sakara, whose three young children were getting balloons made in the shapes of animals, said he has come to the event nearly every year of the seven years he has lived in town.
“It shows a sense of community for what the town has to offer. It’s a great way to support small businesses here in Darien,” said Sakara, adding that it’s also nice to see the event “attracting people from other towns in the area.”
Rosemary Schoenherr of Stamford said the sidewalk sales day is “fabulous.”
“I love that it’s condensed to a small area. It’s easier than Greenwich Avenue,” she said. “You see a lot of offerings right here on the street.”
She added that she saw some “great clothing sales so I was very lucky.”
Face painting was performed by teens who volunteer on the student governing board at the Darien Depot. “The student governing board not only has to raise money each year for their programs, they are the ambassadors of the Depot,” Program Director Janice Marzano said. “They plan fundraising events such as the commuter breakfast, Depot dinner, Depot car and pet wash, fourth and fifth grade parties, and many other events.”
At the Darien Community Association Thrift Shop tent, there was a wide selection of items on display.
“The thrift shop benefits the Darien Community Association,” said volunteer Caroline Burke. “We are completely staffed by volunteers. We accept donations at the shop and we display them on the shop floor.”
According to Burke, the shop “attracts customers from a wide radius, and today we’re just trying to showcase some of our things outside.”
Stamford resident Will Yoder, who was shopping with his 2-year-old son Bobby, moved to town from California about six months ago. He said that he likes getting the chance to see many of the merchandise “all in one place.”
“It’s cool to see a little taste of all the different storefronts in one easy walk,” he said, adding that his added that his wife Colleen bought some necklaces.“It’s a fun thing to do on a Saturday to get to know the area a bit better.”
Michelle Mitrione of Darien said the discounts and outdoor time were what drew her to the event.
“I don’t normally shop on Post Road,” she said. “I work full-time so it’s a way to get me out.”
She added that her twin daughters “like the jumpy houses and all the little goodies they get here.”
Susan Cator, executive director of the Darien Chamber of Commerce, said it’s “the best Darien sidewalk sales ever.”
“We’ve had record sales,” Cator said. “There’s a great vibe about Darien’s retail scene.”
“It’s very upbeat,” she said. “We’ve got more merchants, some new shops, and it’s just really fun.”
At the Darien Fire Station, 3-year-old twins Shepard and Jack Murphy from Norwalk were pressing all the buttons and honking the horn while sitting on a police motorcycle.
In between loud honks, the boys’ father David Murphy said his sons love trucks and motorcycles.
“Any time there’s a touch-a-truck type of event, they want to go to it,” Murphy said. “Our weekends revolve a lot around kids with trucks and kids on motorcycles.”
Darien firefighter Shane Smith said it’s good to open the fire and police departments up to the public.
“It lets them see firsthand what we offer to civilians,” said Smith, who has been a firefighter for 20 years. “For kids who’ve never sat on our trucks, it makes their day.”
Darien First Selectman Jayme Stevenson, who was chatting with people in front of many of the tents, said she’s “happy to be out here for day number three of the Darien Sidewalk Sales.”
“It appears to be a record year. There’s such a buzz going on about the town of Darien and all the exciting things that are happening, with new merchants and new restaurants, and the new developments that are about to get underway,” Stevenson said. “I think people are just excited in anticipating that. They’re all coming out to help celebrate and support all of our local merchants this weekend.”