story & photo
by Kelvin Ake
What a great honor for the United States Coast Guard Academy graduating class of 2017 as they received their diploma in commission at the 136th Commencement Ceremony held on Wednesday May 17 in New London.
Graduation ceremonies are always marked with great pomp and pageantry, but this year’s exercise was a bit more special. The cadets were excited not only to be celebrating the occasion with proud family members and important dignitaries but were especially thrilled to have the President and Commander-in-Chief Donald J. Trump as the commencement speaker.
In his welcome remarks, Rear Admiral James E. Rendon, Superintendent of the Coast Guard Academy, congratulated the graduates for successfully completing their program. “The mission for these graduates is complete.” he announced. “We are confident they will serve, lead and succeed.”
In his keynote address, President Trump congratulated the Class of 2017 for their accomplishments. “Every cadet graduating today, as your Commander-in-Chief, it is truly my honor to welcome you aboard. And you should take a moment to celebrate this incredible achievement.”
The President also highlighted the vital role of the Coast Guard in the nation’s security. “The Coast Guard is deployed in support of operations in theaters of conflict all around the world, but not only do they defend American security, they also protect American prosperity.”
“You’re the only federal presence upon our inland waterways. You pursue the terrorists, stop the drug smugglers and keep out all who would do harm to our country. Together we have the same mission, and your devotion and dedication makes me proud to be your Commander-in-Chief.” the President said.
Speaking on behalf of his peers, Cadet First Class Christopher Robert Popiel, this year’s distinguished graduate, thanked the guests for joining them to celebrate their achievement. “Our achievement assures us that the Coast Guard will be in good hands.” He noted with pride the courage demonstrated by the Class of 2017 in the face of difficult challenges. “Unity gave us courage to get through the storm.” he said.
Admiral Paul F. Zukunft, Commandant, United States Coast Guard, in his remarks called on the new officers to be leaders of character. “You’re going to be leaders in a world that has storms on many fronts. It’s going to require leaders with character to lead this great nation,” he reminded the young officers. “I have followed this class for four years. I know you’re going to do the best.”
John F. Kelly, Homeland Security Secretary had this ad
vice for the graduates. “Take care of your people. Train them, mentor them and defend them. If you do this,” he explained, “They will do anything you ask them to do. They’ll show up to work on time. They’ll put their lives at risk on the high seas interdicting drug, dealing with the most dangerous men on the planet, or they’ll jump out of a helicopter in the middle of the night in the raging seas to save somebody. All you have to do is lead them.”
President Trump’s speech was followed by the administering of the Oath of Office, presentation of degrees to the 195 graduating officers and the divestiture of cadet symbols, a befitting ending to a day they will long remember.
Congratulation grads! We wish you great success. We honor your devotion to duty and appreciate your service to our nation.
by Karen Koerner
A threat of rain didn’t dampen the spirits at the Sun BBQ Fest, held June 3 and 4 at the Mohegan Sun.
The scent of wood smoke and cooking meat wafted over the Festival while visitors enjoyed toe-tapping sounds of live music by bands like the Jay Dempsey Band, Will Evans and the 20Ride ZZ Top Tribute Band on Saturday. Sunday’s event was enlivened by the sounds of the Green Tea Band and Southern City Band.
Two kinds of people were in attendance. Some, like Ted Sherman, Carrie Reed, and her son, Nick, visited from Westerly RI simply to enjoy the experience. They started their day at the Sun BBQ Fest as students at the Weber Grilling Academy, learning the tips and tricks to cooking great pizza on a grill.
“This is our second year,” Carrie said. The family learns a skill at the Academy and practices at home.
After “graduation” from the grilling academy, the party could sample tasty treats from vendor and competitor tents, learn more tips from other grilling experts, enjoy music, drinks, and displays.
Then there were the more serious group of participants: The competitors who travel from all around the country to competitive events like this, vying for prizes, titles and acclaim for their smoking and grilling talents.
The Backyard Smokers didn’t travel far. They are based in New London and they are serious about their barbecue. “We won People’s Choice two years in a row,” said Matt Kern, a member of the Backyard Smokers crew. They will compete in four festivals like this in the coming year. The Sun BBQ Fest kicks off their competitive season.
Chris Herbbete owns the company, which caters and competes. “We believe in hard work and quality product. We like to bring the barbecue from our back yard to yours,” Chris said. Among this year’s winners in the Kansas City Barbeque Society Competition was local first place winner John’s Twisted Q based in.
The line of people waiting to sample and cast their votes in the People’s Choice Rib Challenge stretched far outside the tent but moved quickly. Dozens of competitors presented their best, and the lucky samplers were the real winners.
Myron Mixon, a four time World BBQ Champion, installed in the BBQ Hall of Fame, and called by his devotees, the “Winningest Man in BBQ,” held court in his tent, demonstrating how to prepare and cook a brisket that is juicy, flavorful, smoky and tender. A crowd extended from inside to outside the tent, and samples of his brisket proved his titles to be well deserved.
Fireworks ended the evening Saturday, but the entire Festival provided a sparkling beginning to the barbecue season.
by Karen Koerner
True to his word, Guy Fieri stopped in for a visit to his Guy Fieri’s Foxwoods Restaurant Kitchen and Bar June 1, to talk food, demonstrate how to unmold his famous “Trash Can Nachos,” and to visit with friends at Foxwoods Casino Restaurant.
First the food. As guests watched, Guy carefully finessed a mold from layers of nacho chips, cheese, onions, hot peppers and more, leaving a crispy, cheesy stack of nachos where every bite is delicious. He joked with Lena Sternburg, a nearby Food Instagrammer, that she had to eat it all. “I’ll be back in five minutes,” he said. “They’re really good!” Lena exclaimed.
Guy, famous for visiting down-to-earth eateries around the country in his popular show, “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives,” was diplomatic when asked to recommend restaurants. “It’s impossible,” he said, but then got serious. “Go and look,” he said, advising the group around him to experiment with all types of restaurants and foods.
Conversation soon turned to one of Guy’s favorite topics: the Best Buddies program, which is the world’s largest organization dedicated to ending the social, physical and economic isolation of the 200 million people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). Guy Fieri’s Foxwoods Restaurant Kitchen and Bar employees Best Buddies to give these people with IDD a chance to be a productive part of society. For Guy, it’s a personal commitment.
“I had a cousin with an intellectual disability,” he explained. “I have first-hand understanding of how misunderstood people with intellectual disabilities are.” Guy supports the Best Buddies fundraising efforts and loves spreading the word about the charity. “When you work hand-in-hand with the Buddies you get to see their energy and sense their involvement,” he said.
Guy was in New England to participate in the Best Buddies Challenge weekend at Harvard Stadium in Massachusetts. During the June 2 kickoff of the event, Foxwoods presented a donation of $100,000 to the charity.
This is Guy’s first visit back to his restaurant since the ribbon cutting ceremony last fall. He took a quick tour with Felix Rappaport, President and CEO, Foxwoods Casino and Guy’s long-time friend, checking out the changes in the stylish eatery since he was last here.
Guy’s Foxwoods eatery features his famously big burgers, crab fondue, explosively-flavored entres, spectacular drinks and more. It’s everything you would expect from a visit to Flavortown.