Milford’s Kick Off to Summer is a fairly new annual event, but it already rivals the Milford Oyster Festival in terms of popularity among the boating community.

That assessment came from Ray Swift, director of the city-owned Lisman Landing Marina, when he was speaking at a Board of Aldermen’s meeting April 1. The marina, with 40 slips in downtown Milford, draws boaters all season long but at greater numbers when there are events downtown.

The Milford Oyster Festival, which will mark its 45th year, attracts about 50,000 people to downtown Milford, and the Kick Off to Summer, in its fifth year, brings about 1,000 people to the downtown area around the marina, with more people spread out in adjacent locations.

But the two events appear equal in their ability to sell out the marina months in advance.

“The demand is more than the space available,” said Swift.

The marina is already sold out for both events and it’s only April. The Kick Off to Summer will be June 29 this year, and the Oyster Festival will be Aug. 17.

Michele DiBella, publicity chairman for the Annual Milford Oyster Festival, said she knows the festival’s Friday night Oyster Eve events and Oyster Festival on Saturday fill up the marina. That makes sense because Milford’s Oyster festival is one of the largest in the country, she said.

“Every year it seems we are getting more and more people from outside of Milford contacting me for information about the festival,” DiBella said.

Dan Worroll, who heads up the Kick Off to Summer event with its signature fireworks display, said the event has grown in popularity every year since it started in 2015. He was happy to hear Swift say it is a big draw for boaters.

“We get about 800 people just in the Lisman Landing area, but there are also people at the pavilion, people in the streets, apartments, Colony Grill, SBC and the docks,” Worroll said. An estimate one year put the number at 20,000 people throughout the downtown area, he said.

This year’s Kick Off to Summer will be 4 to 11:30 p.m. June 29 in and around Lisman Landing. There will be two bands, Hitlist from 4 to 7 p.m. and RumRunners from 7:30 to 11:30 p.m. In addition to the big fireworks display over the harbor and the music, there will be food trucks.

The Milford Oyster Festival will be 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Aug. 17, with Oyster Eve the day before. The Oyster Fest features a host of food vendors, a couple of big name bands, children’s events, a huge craft show, and more.

Milford’s annual fireworks a big hit with boaters

Worroll said he wouldn’t really compare the two events in terms of popularity because they are very different.

“The Kick Off is really a family event, with bands that play old staples,” Worroll said. “It’s just a fun event for people from Milford and surrounding towns to come to at no charge.”

Jay Pinto, president of the Milford Oyster Festival Committee, and Milford’s Economic Development Julie Nash, stayed away for comparing the two events and said both are good for Milford.

“The Kick Off to Summer is a great event for Milford, and Lisman Landing is a gem of a location,” Pinto said. “It's a positive for everyone that more organizations are making good use of it for their events.”

Nash has been working hard to make Milford more of a tourist destination, and she works with Worroll planning the Kick Off to Summer event. She said she is happy it has become a signature event for Milford.

“We are lucky to have these spectacular bookend [events] for the summer season to entice more and more boaters and visitors to Milford,” Nash said.

Even though Lisman Landing Marina is booked up for the two annual events, there is a waiting list in case of cancellations. Swift said interested boaters should still call if they hope to get a slip for either of those weekends.

“The marina is sized perfectly,” Swift added, in case anyone thinks he is calling for a larger facility. “Other weekends we can generally fit everyone. It’s really a pretty perfect size.”