Summer Guide: Bristol offers tons of summer fun

THE GREAT BRISTOL July 4 outhouse race is legendary.

BRISTOL — One of Vermont’s most beautiful places to be in the summertime is Bristol, the Gateway to the Green Mountains.

Not only is the town blessed with incredible natural beauty — Bristol Cliffs, the New Haven River, Bartlett Falls and Bristol Pond come immediately to mind — it also has what you might call a “community beauty.”

Bristol residents are proud of their home; they are spirited and they are welcoming.

And they know how to do summer.

It would be impossible to capture in just one story the feeling of summer here — that’s something readers will have to experience for themselves.

But we can provide a sampling of the great variety of planned activities you can participate in when you’re not hiking, swimming, fishing or reading a book and sipping lemonade under the shade of a tree.

For starters, there’s the Bristol Fourth of July Parade ( It returns after a two-year COVID-19 hiatus, and its theme, appropriately enough, is “We’re Back! Unmasked and with the Best Parade Ever!”

JUNA GUSSIE WITH her July 4 float.
Independent photo/John Flowers

This year’s parade marshal(s) will be the Bristol Band, which is celebrating its 150th, 151st and 152nd birthdays this year (COVID meant no 150th or 151st birthday parties).

Celebrations kick off with fireworks at dusk on Sunday, July 3, at the Bristol Recreation Park, with plenty of vendors and other fun.

A full slate of activities and attractions is planned for Monday, July 4, including an early-morning foot race and the World Famous Outhouse Race. The mid-morning parade will be followed by live music in the afternoon, and plenty of food trucks, vendors and other activities will be available all day on the Town Green.

Meanwhile, kids in grades 5-12 interested in mountain biking should check out the 5Town Riders, an Addison County team organized through the Bristol Recreation Department.

Led by experienced and certified coaches, the team is affiliated with Vermont Youth Cycling (, which organizes a series of races throughout the state in September and October.

5Town Riders will practice at the Bristol Recreation fields every Wednesday from 3:15 to 5 p.m., throughout the summer, focusing on safety, skill-building, trail awareness and sportsmanship.

There are also a couple of special Saturday field trips planned.

Kids may register anytime between now and Sept. 1 — or they’re welcome to just come by and watch practices. Both Vermont Youth Cycling and the Bristol Rec Department offer scholarships, and the town has some resources to help riders who need bicycles or bike repairs.

For more information, email [email protected].

Do you enjoy watching family movies outdoors in the evening? The Bristol Rec Department’s got you covered.

Movies in the Park After Dark will feature three Thursday night screenings on the Town Green this summer:

  • June 30: “The Lorax” (2012).
  • July 14: “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” (2015) (with guest appearances from the “501st Legion”).
  • August 18: “Clifford the Big Red Dog” (2021).

Show times start at dusk. Pack your bug spray and a blanket or lawn chair to sit on.

If it’s live music you’re after, check out the Summer Music Series organized by the Bristol Hub and Teen Center and the Bristol Rec Department.

Enjoy free, open-air concerts on four Sundays at the Bristol Recreation Fields:

  • July 17: The Tsunnamibots vs. The Brand New Luddites.
  • July 31: Atom and the Orbits.
  • August 7: Kip de Moll.
  • August 21: Vermont Youth Orchestra.

Into quilting or curious about being part of a quilter’s guild? Quilters Open Meetings will be held at Howden Hall on the first Mondays of the month at 6 p.m.

No fees or registration are required — just come by and find out what quilting is all about.

For more information email Diane Heffernan at [email protected].

THE BRISTOL BAND performs every Wednesday night on the town green.

On Wednesday, June 15, the Bristol Rec Department will present a Teddy Bear Picnic on the Town Green from noon to 1 p.m.

Kids 16 and under are invited to bring their favorite bears to the Town Green gazebo for stories, songs and fun.


On Saturday, July 9, a Learning Horse Show for beginner riders and their horses will take place at the Bristol Horse Ring from 9 a.m. to 3 or 4 p.m. You’ll find the ring at the intersection of Liberty and West Pleasant streets.

The event is organized by Bristol’s Equine Heritage Herd (, a group dedicated to reviving the passion of the town’s equine community through educational programs and events.

The Learning Horse Show aims to present practice classes that resemble a regular horse show. Participants will get educational tips on how to improve their horse show skills, as well as how to compete safely and with good sportsmanship.

For more information call Elissa Cobb at 802-453-2301.

In early August, Bristol will welcome some special guests.

Very Merry Theater (, a theater company for children that performs one-of-a-kind plays all over Vermont, will bring its “Summer Wagon Tour” to the Bristol Town Green on Tuesday, Aug. 2, for a performance of “The Music Man.”

The show, which starts at 6:30 p.m., is free and open to the public. In the event of rain the performance will be moved inside to Holley Hall.

In addition to all of this organized summer goodness, the Bristol Rec Department keeps up a running schedule of camps and classes, from working with clay to dancing to gymnastics. For more information about these classes — and many of the events listed above — visit

Happy summer!

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