story & photos by Alexis Ann
The Ocean Community Chamber of Commerce rolled out the red carpet on June 21 for honorees, Paul Donahue, Citizen of the Year and Joe Cugini, Key Award recipient at its annual membership banquet. Venice Restaurant was the perfect venue to host this extraordinary event on a gorgeous first day of summer.
The cocktail reception featured live music by The Westminister Youth String Ensemble outside on the terrace where all enjoyed passed hors d’oeuvres to complement one’s favorite libation. The evening was a #10 weather-wise. The gentle whispering of cool breezes off the near-by mighty Atlantic was a welcomed addition. Inside the lounge area, people bustled about the silent auction making sure to keep an eye on their coveted items donated by an array of local businesses.
This event, a favorite ‘sell-out’ for the Chamber every year, acts as an official preamble to summer especially for our ‘snow birds’ just returning from sunnier states. For our seasonal business owners, it’s a time to renew acquaintances and discuss predictions for an upcoming bountiful summer season. You can feel the excitement in the air and the roar of laughter increases as the bartenders become more and more popular!
Soon, the crowd of 230 is guided upstairs via stairway and elevator to the Renaissance Ballroom. The round tables of ten are linened and decorated with fresh flower centerpieces. Lisa’s team, Ocean Chamber staff Erica Agnello, Administrative Assistant, Lou Martocchio, Events Manager, Maria DiMaggio, Membership & Operations Director, and Angie Smith, Board Member and Great Escape Auction chair person, have this event organized to the max. Our choices were chicken or salmon as indicated on our name cards.
Everyone is seated and Bruce Morrow, general manager of Valenti Subaru and Chairman of the Chamber’s Board, welcomes all and introduces Eddie Morrone, emcee. After the introduction of current board members and recognition of those completing service, installation of new board members, including Kerin DaCruz, L&M Hospital, Jim Traskos, Traskos Manufacturing Co., Alexis Ann, The Resident, and John Allen, Ivory Ella; and new executive board members, including Bruce, as chairman, Beth Frenette, Washington Trust Co., First Vice Chair, Jen Brinton, Grew Sail Brewing of Rhode Island, Grey Sail Tap Room, Second Vice Chair, Mike Benevides, Benevides & Turano, LLC, CPA’s & Business Advisors, Treasurer, Maria Allen, Bella Vita, Secretary, and Angela Thoman, Paddy Beach Club, Past Chairwoman, are called to the front of the room for a photo op.
The effervescent Lisa Konicki, Chamber president for the past 20 years, officiates the year-end report and the pro auctioneer extraordinaire Dan Stanavage begins and we all remember another reason why we’re here—to raise monies for this worthwhile organization that acts as a catalyst for increased value to the Westerly-Pawcatuck and two-state region.
Key Award recipient Joe Cugini is announced. This award was established to honor those whose selfless actions have helped the Ocean Community Chamber of Commerce achieve its mission. If you know Joe Cugini, you know that he is dedicated to serving the Chamber and this community. He served as president of the Westerly Community Credit Union for 40 years and began his chamber affiliation working on the Town of Westerly Tercentenary. Joe always takes great pride in supporting community programs. Behind the scenes he continues to be a source of advice and guidance to the Chamber and those who ask. He will serve on a committee with the Chamber to help plan events for the Town of Westerly’s 350th Anniversary in 2019.
Citizen of the Year 2017 is Paul Donahue, owner of Westerly Paints. If you know Paul, you know he’s an Olympian for giving to his community.
As spoken, “Paul is a true gentleman, a generous non-profit supporter and loyal community advocate. While exhibiting an incredible work ethic running a successful business, he stays engaged with the everyday challenges and opportunities faced by his beloved Town of Westerly.”
Paul champions our community image with contractors, customers, and national companies with whom he conducts business. “We cannot imagine a more humble citizen yet a more consistently engaged citizen than Paul Donahue. He is an incredible volunteer, but even more important, an extraordinary human being. The Ocean Community Chamber of Commerce is deeply proud to honor Paul Donahue as its 2017 Citizen of the Year.
story & photos
by Alexis Ann
The Grand opening of the Connecticut Boxing Hall Of Fame’s new location in the Sky Casino at Mohegan Sun was celebrated June 26. An official ribbon-cutting starring leaders from both the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan Tribal Nations participated in this jovial ceremony with John Laudati, President, CT Boxing Hall Of Fame (CBHOF), several board members and celebrity boxers including: Micky Ward, Marlon Starling, Gaspar Ortega, Dana Rosenblatt, Troy Wortham, Luigi Camputaro, Orlando Montalvo and Ray Oliveira. Up-and-coming professional Mykquan Williams also attended with his trainer, 2014 inductee Paul Cichon.
John Laudati welcomed all and thanked the Mohegan Sun for allowing boxing fans to be able to visit this beautiful facility whenever they are in the casino. “We at the CBHOF are extremely grateful to Mohegan Sun for hosting this great facility and for contributing generously to its construction.”
“We are very excited and anxious to have the ability to present the rich history of boxing in Connecticut while simultaneously honoring those who have contributed to that history.” President John gave special thanks to board members: Mohegan Sagamore Maynard Strickland, Mashantucket Pequot leader Kenny Reels, Don Trella, Mike Mazulli and Kim Barker for spearheading this magnanimous effort.
Mohegan Chairman Kevin Brown greeted the crowd and joked about increasing rental charge for the space in the casino. Kevin carried the gigantic pair of scissors to the center of the ribbon joining board members and boxers so anxious to snip the bright red ribbon.
The new CBHOF will be open to the public during Mohegan Sun Casino operating hours. In addition to the inductees’ plaques and videos of famous fights held in the Nutmeg State, the new location features rotating displays of historically significant boxin
g memorabilia. There will also be interactive displays for public use.
by Karen Koerner
Scouts from Mystic Boy Scout Troop 76 placed American Flags along downtown Mystic Streets, then in a ceremony at 7:45am June 14, raised the large, billowing American Flag at the Mystic Liberty Pole near the drawbridge to celebrate Flag Day.
Guided by Richard Dussault, Flag Captain for the Mystic Flag Committee, scouts also raised the Groton and Stonington flags on the pole’s yardarms. Members of Mystic’s VFW Post 3263 led the group of about 50 people in the Pledge of Allegiance.
“Nice job, boys,” called out a man in a blue GMC pickup truck, stopped at the Liberty Pole driving circle during the ceremony. The flag-raising is an annual event, when the Scouts, community members and members of the Mystic Flag Committee pause to honor the Stars and Stripes, which the Second Continental Congress adopted as the Flag of the United States on June 14, 1777.
One of those looking on was Mystic resident Michael Keenan, who carried with him information about his brother, Joseph Keenan, killed in Korea in 1953. Michael is working to revive his fallen brother’s nomination for a medal of honor. “Patriotism means a lot,” he said, explaining why he was there to see the flag ceremony.
A Wisconsin teacher first proposed celebrating the Flag Birthday in 1885. Other organizations began to observe the day, and President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Flag Day by resolution in 1916. President Harry Truman strengthened the date in 1949 when he signed an Act of Congress designating June 14th of each year as National Flag Day.
Members of the Mystic Flag Committee met for a delicious breakfast at the S&P Oyster Co. following the ceremony. Bob Cushman, Vice President, led the meeting in the absence of John H. Kennedy, President. Bob thanked the scouts for their dedication. “They put up 110 flags along the streets of Mystic on every patriotic holiday,” he noted before presenting a donation to the troop to Rob Bunger, Assistant Scout Master.
“We appreciate the opportunity to do that every year for the community,” Rob responded.
Information about supporting the Mystic Liberty Pole is at www.mysticlibertypole.com.
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.