After missing two years due to the pandemic, more than a thousand visitors celebrated the 45th annual Newton Highlands Village Day street festival and 5K road race June 12. The event featured more than 70 local restaurants, artists, businesses, entrepreneurs, and nonprofits.
“We try to put this event on to celebrate the neighborhood,” said Steven Feinstein, one of the festival’s organizers and a former Newton Highlands Area Council member. “Especially these years with the COVID, there’s been a dearth of opportunities like this for people to come out and see people they know.”
More than 150 runners — families and neighbors of all ages — started off the road race at Hyde Center.
Amy Konary said she and her family had run the 5K race several times before the pandemic, and it was “exciting” to return after the hiatus.
“I think this is our 10th year,” Konary said. “One of the things we were missing in the last few years was our community, because we couldn’t always come together. So being able to have enough opportunity like this to come together in a positive way feels really great.”
Aidan Lieberman, an experienced runner and a junior at Newton South High School, said he finished the race “strong” with around 19 minutes.
“This run is really fun, especially because it’s my own neighborhood, so these streets are familiar,” Lieberman said.
Susan Mirsky, Newton Highlands resident and a volunteer at the race, said the event is a “celebration of Highlands and life.”
“You might see a young couple, and then you see them with children, and then you see the children grow up, then they come back as adults,” Mirsky said. “It’s a history or continuity that you have here.”
Feinstein said they hope this event — which the Newton Highlands Area Council sponsored with the help of community members and volunteers — would provide opportunities for local merchants and small businesses that struggled with the pandemic.
Lucas Land, a glassblower based in Lowell, said he found out about the event online and was “excited” to attend for the first time.
“It’s always a pleasure for me to get my work out there and see people enjoy it,” Land said.
Caelan Quadra, a sophomore at Newton South Public School, said Village Day provided a community for his homemade candles business.
“I started my business online, so then I wanted to start growing it,” Quadra said. “I don’t want to build a business to be like Amazon — I wanted to be in person.”
Many nonprofit organizations focusing on the environment had booths at the event. Liora Silkes, the city’s energy coach, said she has been to different festivals around the city to educate neighborhoods about the goal of reaching carbon neutrality by 2050.
“We have to address the fact that about 60 percent of our city’s current greenhouse gas emissions come from residential buildings and personal vehicles,” Silkes said. “So I’m here to help people, and together we could reach our goals.”
Mayor Ruthanne Fuller joined family members as part of the event to unveil a new monument for the late John O’Hara — who was an active community member and co-owner of O’Hara’s Food & Spirits — and to rededicate the Arthur English Garden, which is named after a late Newton resident and retired deputy fire chief for the city.
Jennifer London, a Newton Highlands resident and volunteer, said the event is important to the village as a “close-knit” community.
“I’m thrilled that the community can come together to experience a day like this,” London said. “We’re thrilled to welcome people from all around Newton and the greater Boston area.”
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