By LISA CAPOBIANCO
Kevin Young flocked to the track of the former Memorial Boulevard School to join other super heroes for a walk to benefit St. Vincent DePaul Mission of Bristol during the 54th annual Mum Festival last weekend.
Last Saturday, Young dressed as the character Deadpool for the “Super Heroes Walk for Homeless,” which children and families also took part in. All proceeds of the walk supported St. Vincent DePaul. In addition to the walk, proceeds from a sausage and pepper booth at the festival have benefitted the shelter. The sausage and peppers were donated by Emily’s Catering Group.
Kevin, who has dressed up for children’s parties, decided to get involved in the walk to help make a difference in his community while having fun at the annual festival.
“It’s a good cause,” said Kevin. Young’s mother, Kathy Young, who serves on the Board of Directors at St. Vincent DePaul and secretary of St. Joseph Church, organized the fundraising event.
Although the participation turnout was not has high as expected, Kathy said the costumed superheroes, like Spiderman, appealed to children and families walking on the Memorial Boulevard.
“There’s been a lot of excitement around,” added Kevin. “We do our part and make it a little more fun.”
The goal of the hour-long walk was to spread awareness about St. Vincent DePaul’s service to the Bristol community, as many people may not be aware that it exists here in the city, said Kathy. St. Vincent DePaul provides housing for the homeless and auxiliary services to help the homeless acquire permanent housing and to improve their lives. Currently, the nonprofit is transitioning from housing people in its buildings to housing people in the community.
“I know what the need is,” said Kathy. “Anything we can do for the shelter is worthwhile.”
“We put this [fundraiser] together very quickly,” added Phillip Lysiak, executive director of St. Vincent DePaul Mission of Bristol. “We’ll build on it. Hopefully every year we’ll get better.”
Other festival events supported other local groups like Zion Lutheran’s Meals for the Needy and the soup kitchen of Christian Fellowship Center. Proceeds from the tethered hot air balloon rides, the dunk tank, and the safari rides will support those soup kitchens in Bristol. Last year, the festival helped raise over $800 for Meals for the Needy.
The oldest soup kitchen in Bristol that began in 1982, Meals for the Needy initially operated one evening per week serving 10 people, but has grown over the years to meet increased needs.
During the festival, Meals for the Needy helped spread the word about its Harvest Wine Tasting fundraiser scheduled for this Friday (Oct. 2) at American Legion Post 2 from 5-8 p.m. Admission is $20. The event will feature over 15 different wines as well as hors d’oeuvres and a silent auction.
Pat Claffey, a volunteer of Meals for the Needy, said the response from the community has been great, as many local organizations have put together baskets with different themes for the fundraiser.
“We’ve had incredible responses,” said Pat.
Over the past 33 years, volunteers representing local churches, schools, civic groups and businesses have served over 850,000 meals. Meals are served four nights per week, Monday through Thursday with the help of volunteers from Bristol and other surrounding communities. Anyone can come and eat for free, with no conditions, and 100 meals are often served per night.
“It would not be successful without this community involvement,” said Pat. “It’s an incredible community wheel that just keeps turning.”
From airborne jugglers and a motion man to Touch-A-Truck to train rides, the Mum Festival featured a variety of activities for people of all ages. New this year was a photo booth and an aerialist. The committee also brought back the petting zoo. Other festival entertainment included the car show presented by the Bristol Auto Club, the Bristol Fire Department Smokehouse, the dunk tank, and the Child Identification Program, as well as a live performance by the Old Tyme Fiddlers. Over 60 vendors from in and outside Connecticut, lined the boulevard to interact with festivalgoers while handing out information.
This year’s theme of the Mum Festival was “What Do You Love About Bristol.”
Mum Festival Committee Chairman Joe Krolikowski said this year brought more vendors and festivities than in previous years. Krolikowski, along with other festival committee members, sold apple fritters which sold quickly during the event.
“Everyone looks happy,” said Joe, adding that events on the Memorial Boulevard field brought a lot of excitement.
For Lisa Cozzi of Burlington, this year marked the first in which she has visited the Mum Festival with her children. Lisa said she enjoyed the variety of activities the event featured for children, including the bounce house that her daughter had fun on.
“It’s nice to be a part of the community,” said Cozzi. “The more events there are and the more we can expose our children to, the better.”
Jane Wells brought her grandchildren to the festival, as well as her friend Susan.
“I love watching the grandkids have fun,” said Jane. “They’re loving it.”
During the festival, the Bristol community honored this year’s Hometown Hero, Tony Sileo. A World War II veteran, Sileo was awarded the Bronze Star from the U.S. Army, as well as the Distinguished Service Award from the National Association of the 10th Mountain Division. Serving his country at the age of 19 from 1942-1946, Tony was one of seven out of 1,200 cadets at Louisiana State University to qualify for the 10th Mountain Division, the first mountain troop division. Tony was prepared for all weather conditions, as diversity training for this division took him from subzero temperatures to high temperatures and poisonous bugs and ticks.
A member of the American Legion for 50 years, Tony helped establish a scholarship at Siena College in Loudonville, New York. Every year since the scholarship’s inception in the early 1990s, financial aid is awarded to family members of the 10th Mountain Division.
Mum Festival Committee member Darlene Sawe said this year’s selection for Bristol’s Hometown Hero was easy. During the Hometown Hero presentation, she presented Sileo with a clock engraved with his name.
“This man is probably one of the most incredible men I ever had the opportunity to meet,” said Darlene. “He is definitely a hero for Bristol.”
Besides giving back to veterans, Sileo also worked with youth over the years, getting involved with American Legion baseball for over two decades, volunteering for the Boy Scouts and tutoring/mentoring children at South Side School for seven years. In addition, Sileo has served the city through his involvement with local politics. Not only has Sileo served on the Republican Town Committee for 50 years, but he also served on the Board of Assessors for four years.
To this day, Sileo has volunteered in the Bristol Room of Bristol Public Library, where he also has been a Friend of the Bristol Library for 25 years, playing an integral role in the Bookstore. Sileo was honored during the Hometown Hero Breakfast last Sunday at American Legion Post 2.
“Thank you to everyone on the committee who made this possible,” said Sileo on the main stage during the festival.
By LISA CAPOBIANCO