By SHERIDAN CYR
Connecticut politicians from various parties gathered for the New England Carousel Museum’s 136th annual Crocodile Club event at the pavilions in Lake Compounce Thursday, Aug. 24.
Executive Director at the museum, Louise DeMars, described the event as “an important tradition being carried on.”
“The reason it’s special is it puts a spotlight on Bristol for the day. It brings not only politicians but also a lot of press. It’s important to maintain this Connecticut tradition,” said DeMars.
The origin of the event goes back to a time when the fastest way to travel was by horse-and-buggy. Gad Norton, former legislator and founder of the amusement park in 1846, had a farmhouse that was technically on Southington property. Norton, however, did all of his trading and most of his communications in Bristol, so he requested that the town line between Southington and Bristol be shifted, keeping his farmhouse in Bristol.
To thank his colleagues in the state legislature for their help in passing the statute, he formed the “Crocodile Club” dinner event, which has continued each year since.
Southington resident Susan Sterniak was excited to return to the event.
“I love supporting this affair. It’s been a longtime tradition in my family, and it’s nice that both sides of government can come together for the afternoon,” said Sterniak.
Republican Chair of the Plainville Town Council, Kathy Pugliese, echoed Sterniak’s remarks.
“It’s such a great gathering. Republicans, Democrats – everyone comes together for a lot of fun, and strictly no talk of politics. We get together, celebrate, and tell jokes,” said Pugliese.
The event was catered by the park. Everyone enjoyed a lamb dinner and drinks while Fox61 correspondent Jen Bernstein MC’d the program of guest speakers. U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, Bristol Mayor Ken Cockayne, U.S. Rep. John Larson (D-1) and State Senator Joseph Markley (R-Southington) all took turns poking fun at one another.
“It’s always great for us to come together to this event, across party lines, across town lines” said Blumenthal. “And I don’t want any jokes about building walls today!”
Markley, a resident of Southington, said, “Inviting someone from Southington to come here is like inviting the Queen to light fireworks on the Fourth of July.” He garnered a laugh from the crowd.
“I’ve thought about taking the land back from Bristol, maybe challenging Mayor Cockayne to a single combat, but I take one look at him and I don’t really want to do that,” said Markley.