5 Questions for ... Fairfield’s Marty Schwartz, ringmaster for the 71st Barnum Festival
FAIRFIELD — For 39 years, Marty Schwartz wore the hat of the president and CEO of the Kennedy Center, a private nonprofit that helps those with intellectual disabilities.
He stepped down in January, and now he’s put on a new hat — a top hat, to be specific, as he takes on the role of ringmaster for the 71st edition of the Barnum Festival. Schwartz, a recent transplant to Fairfield, will take on his first duties on Nov. 27 at the Meet the Ringmaster Dinner at Testo’s Restaurant in Bridgeport.
At the Kennedy Center, Schwartz helped it grow from a small, grassroots agency serving just less than 200 adults with 48 staff members. Now, it serves more than 2,000 individuals, and employs more than 750 people.
Schwartz has also served as president of the Trumbull Chamber of Commerce, the Probus Club of Greater Bridgeport, and the Connecticut Community Providers Association. In 2000, he was awarded an honorary doctorate of humane letters from the University of Bridgeport for his humanitarian accomplishments.
He’s also received the Regional Leadership Award from the Bridgeport Regional Business Council, Outstanding Citizen of the Year from the Bridgeport Dental Association, Probian of the Year, the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Connecticut Community Providers Association, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Commission Humanitarian Award and the 2018 Greater Bridgeport Medical Association’s Dominick V. Sorge, MD Distinguished Community Service Award.
Currently, Schwartz is a member of the Board of Directors emeritus of the Trumbull Chamber of Commerce and holds two volunteer positions at Fairfield University: Advisory Board of the Graduate School of Education and Allied Professions, and Distinguished Visiting Professional.
Schwartz recently answered some questions about his newest role as ringmaster of the Barnum Festival, a celebration of the city of Bridgeport and it’s most famous resident and showman, P.T. Barnum.
Q: How did it come about that you were named as ringmaster?
A: Apparently, people in the community recognized that I was an active and involved member within Greater Bridgeport in a variety of leadership positions and felt that I could be an asset and strong advocate for the Barnum Festival, an institution that has great value in celebrating our region’s strengths and brings people from all walks of life together.
Q: What are your duties as ringmaster?
A: As the 71st ringmaster, I am carrying on a legacy that celebrates the richness and diversity of our region, while helping to ensure that the variety of activities offered through the Barnum Festival provide wholesome family fun, instilling joy, pride and enthusiasm for our greater community.
Q: These days, many longtime traditions are being dropped — why does the Barnum Festival continue to have such a strong role in the community?
A: The tradition of P.T. Barnum lives on through the Barnum Festival, which was established in 1948. It is a salute to P.T. Barnum and serves as a time-honored tradition that focuses on positive core family values. Through new events that have been established over the years as well as many classic events that are cherished and still hold great meaning and interest, the festival continues to reinvent itself while providing an anchor to the great traditions and history of our region.
Q: How are you bringing your experience at the Kennedy Center into the festival?
A: As the recently retired president and CEO of The Kennedy Center Inc. for over 39 years, I hope to bring the skills that I have honed at that great organization to the Barnum Festival, another great organization, both which I feel are invaluable to our community.
Q: You are bringing in some new events — can you give us any hints?
A: We will be bringing in some new events that will certainly be of great interest to all. We are very sensitive to ensure that we have a myriad of events that will be of interest to people of all ages. There will be a calendar coming out shortly that will highlight these events.
As ringmaster, I have been given the honor of selecting a theme for this year’s Barnum Festival, as well as determining where a portion of the proceeds will be directed. I have chosen this year’s theme to be: “Everyone Counts” and I have requested that a portion of the proceeds be directed to supporting and assisting children with special needs.