Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Crocodile Club, One Of The Missing Pieces

I wrote two stories about the Crocodile Club for today's edition of The Bristol Press, but I guess there wasn't room for everyone's comments, so in case you're the kind of reader who wants the whole enchilada, here goes:

First-timers joined old “crocodilians” at the Crocodile Club dinner at Lake Compounce Tuesday, rubbing elbows with many of the state’s candidates and reconnecting with old friends.

“It think it’s a grand event,” said Jill Fitzgerald of Bristol, who is the Republican candidate for the state House in the 77th district and attending the dinner for the first time. “I really like it.”

Many of the people there, both candidates and non-candidates, said they enjoyed the friendly, social aspect of the dinner that left serious politics at the door.

“It’s bringing back a lot of memories,” said Bristol City Councilor Ken Cockayne, who said he used to come to the park to watch his late grandfather, Patsy Cistulli, help longtime organizer Stretch Norton with the cooking.

“So far, it’s great,” said Republican Ann Brickley, who is hoping to unseat Congressman John Larson in November and was attending her first dinner.

“This is an excellent crowd,” said state Rep. Betty Boukus, a Plainville Democrat. She said she’s happy that the carousel museum has taken over the dinner and will benefit from it.

Wallace Barnes of Bristol, whose attendance at the Crocodile Club goes back to the 1950s, said he came back early this week from an out of town trip and came to the dinner because he “didn’t want to miss it.”

Thomas Morrow, executive director of the Bristol Community Organization who has attended many Crocodile Club dinners in the past, brought his friend James Gatling of Southington.

“It’s got a rich history,” said Morrow, who said he’s glad that the Crocodile Club dinner now benefits a non-profit agency.

Gatling, who runs a similar agency in Waterbury called New Opportunities, said he didn’t know quite what to expect but was wowed by the number of people there and the fact that politicians from both parties came together in one place.

“I’m really impressed,” Gatling said.

George Sobestanovich of Bristol, who wore a Crocodile Club shirt and hat he bought at the last dinner in 2002, said it was a good afternoon.

"I'm glad they resurrected it," Sobestanovich said. "I hate to see these old traditions fade away."

John Lodovico of Bristol also said he’s glad the club is back, adding that the ballroom at Lake Compounce provided a “very comfortable setting” for the event.

State Sen. Tom Colapietro, a Bristol Democrat, said he saw a lot of friends he hadn’t seen in years. He said he was happy to support the dinner, which was a benefit for the New England Carousel Museum.

“This is non-political,” said Colapietro.

“It’s entertaining,” said Tunxis Community College President Cathryn Addy, who attended the dinner for several years before it ended with the last one in 2002. “I’m happy to see it back.”

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who had a reputation of arriving late and leaving early at the dinner each year, vowed to stay “for the duration” this time, and did.

“It’s a great tradition,” Blumenthal said. “I’m just delighted to be here again.”

Crocodile Club President and host Ray Dunaway pronounced the dinner a success.

“It’s the first time I’ve ever been at an event when Dick Blumenthal stayed till the end,” Dunaway said.

The Crocodile Club was videotaped for later broadcast on CTN.

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