History of the Waldarry Festivals

The history of Waldman family summer parties began back in 1976.  The Brookdale Drive home was purchased in March of that year, and the first party was to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the United States.  It was scheduled for July 4th, but had to be delayed when Bob Waldman was bitten by a raccoon and was undergoing a series of anti-rabies shots.  The party was held several weeks later, kicking off the annual summer tradition.

The first three years the parties were informal, with invites by word of mouth.  The first formal invitation was in 1979, for a “Brooklyn in Connecticut” party.  While there were also formal invitations for 1980 and 1981, none have been located for 1982 to 1984.  Then there were two invitational parties in 1985, one in 1986, and two again in 1987.  From 1988 forward there was one big summer party each year.  So the only years for which invitations either did not exist or have not been located are 1976 to 1978 and 1982 to 1984.

The first year that the term Festival was used was 1995, the first year of the folded brochure invitation, celebrating Fifty Years of Bob Waldman for “The Annual Waldini Festival".  These continued unabated until 2004.

The year 2005 marked the transition from the Waldini Festival to the Waldarry Festival, celebrating the “Island Wedding” of Bob Waldman and Pam Wood.  These have continued again unabated through the present time.

While the earliest parties involved on average about 30 attendees, the number gradually grew, and by the mid-1990s had reached well into the 200s.  The peak count was in 2002 with exactly 300 people attending the Festival.  The 2005 Wedding attracted 223 attendees, and then the number began to gradually decrease as Bob and Pam left the workforce so fewer co-workers were invited.  In the most recent few years the average has been about 110 people.

Throughout this entire timeframe there has been only one postponement from Saturday until Sunday due to weather.  That was in 2000.  There were years that we did get rained on a bit, but never in a big enough way to damage the overall party spirit.

It is also interesting to note a couple of key areas of Festival development.  In the music category, music was initially provided by reel-to-reel tapes.  In 1980 the move was made to cassette tapes, and in 1994 custom made CD music took center stage.  It was in 2000 that the move was made to a PC music server, followed by streaming the festival playlist from the internet starting in 2017.

Another major category of evolution was the fireworks show.  Sparklers were made available in 1979, and this evolved slowly into bigger and bigger fountain fireworks, all announced and lit one at a time.  The first attempt at a show set to music was in 1993 – a simple show with some badly timed firework displays, but a start.  This evolved year after year into ever more sophistication, with a squad of black dressed volunteers scurrying around manually placing and lighting the fireworks attempting to time the action to the music.  It was in 2012 that we introduced our first ever fully electronic wirelessly controlled fireworks show, fully and carefully timed to the music.  Lights were incorporated into the show a year later, and incremental sophistication has been introduced each year since.

A few other highlights added through the years were rocket launchings in 1998, additional sound speakers added in the pond area in 2004, kayaking in 2006 as well as an array of evening solar lights the same year, and a new barbeque platform was added in 2012.


Sadly, in 2020, we were all hit with the coronavirus pandemic, and we had to cancel the major festivities that were planned.  But we were not going to give up completely, so we prepared an abbreviated fireworks show, invited BJ Wood and Amanda Grant to join us for the limited, but still spectacular, Waldarry Festival 2020.  That kept the streak going at 45 consecutive Waldarry Festivals!  Then came 2021, with COVID19 still a big issue.  We had a total 8 person Festival, and ran it much as we did in 2020.  So we struggled but kept it going for 46 straight Festivals.

So, all in all, we have seen an evolution from an informal beginning of annual parties into a much evolved annual Festival.  Hopefully they will continue well into the future.




See the full set of Festival Invitations