By JEN CARDINES
Unlike last year, the sun was shining brightly over the 135th annual Crocodile Club at Lake Compounce on Friday, Aug. 26.
This year’s festivities were held on the Southington side of the park for the second consecutive year, while previous years were inside the ballroom over Bristol lines. The Park Pavilion was filled with local and state politicians from both parties, who enjoyed the traditional event put on by the New England Carousel Museum.
Louise DeMars, NECM director said, “We’re very excited to do the Crocodile Club again. I’m thanking Mother Nature for shining down on us.”
It was an afternoon of laughs and poking fun, with no serious political talk to be had. Politicians from both sides of the political spectrum had a chance to interact in a friendly environment and make jokes with each other during the traditional “roast.”
Southington Town Councilman Ed Pocock III called it “the celebration of the theft of land from Southington,” with a laugh. He has attended the event twice as chairman of the council and this year on behalf of Michael Riccio, who was unable to make it. “I hold no grudges against Bristol,” he later said. “This is a light event.”
Ken Cockayne, mayor of Bristol called it a great tradition, and was happy to have it at Lake Compounce. “Everyone puts politics aside. Unfortunately, today we are on the Southington side,” he said with a grin.
NECM Board of Directors President Vicky Biondi said there was a “much better show of everyone” this year. Some attendees included state Senator Henri Martin (R-22), U.S. Rep. John Larson, state Rep. Whit Betts (R-78), state Rep. and Congressional nominee Dan Carter, Bristol Councilman David Mills, and many other local figures and Croc Club members.
Dr. William Petit Jr. attended the dinner for his first time. He is the nominee for the 22nd House District and was happy to be there. “It sounds like fun,” he said. Petit called it a great idea for people to chat.
Lieutenant Governor Nancy Wyman attended the event for her 16th time, and DeMars called her the biggest supporter of the Club.
“I’m looking forward to the camaraderie,” Wyman said.
Wyman spoke of the late Carolyn Norton, asking that the crowd remember her. A moment of silence was held at the opening of the ceremony for Norton, who recently passed on Aug. 16 after 50 years of service to her community. She was the Norton family representative for the Crocodile Club as they carried out the tradition that Gad Norton started in 1875.
Her absence definitely had an impact on the afternoon, said DeMars but her daughter Julie will serve as the family representative moving forward.
Larson said, “It’s good to pause before the depths of the campaigns.” He recalled his attendance at Crocodile Clubs during his childhood when his godfather, former East Hartford mayor John Shaughnessy, brought him along. Larson has made it to almost every club dinner since he was elected to the House of Representatives in 1982.
In his speech, he said, “At the end of the day, and everyday, we all salute the same flag. We all take the same pledge of allegiance and oath of office to abide by the constitution. At the end of the day, we are all Americans.”