Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Today is the Last Day for Public Input - MCA Arts Advocacy Award Nominations

The Middletown Commission on the Arts (MCA) presents annually an Arts Advocacy Award to an individual and/or group who has significantly contributed to the City’s cultural and artistic enrichment and/or has shown extraordinary support and initiative for the arts.

This year, for the first time, the MCA is seeking public input on nominations for the award. We would like to see who you believe has made a positive cultural or artistic impact on the Middletown community.

The nominee need not reside in Middletown but should be an individual or group that has made an outstanding impact on the arts in this city. Please email suggestions to MCA Chair Lee Godburn at no later than February 29, 2012. Your nominations may or may not be anonymous but please identify the town you live in.
The MCA will be presenting its award honoring this year's recipient in a local ceremony open to the public coinciding with National Arts Advocacy Day April 16-17 in Washington, D.C.

Parking Ban in Effect

In anticipation of the snowstorm, Mayor Daniel T. Drew is declaring a parking ban
effective at 12:00 P.M. on February 29, 2012. The Department of Public Works requests
that you make arrangements to remove your vehicles parked on City streets. Should you
need off-street parking, you may park at the following municipal parking lots:

Corner of Washington/Broad Street
Broad Street (across from Russell Library)
Melilli Plaza (behind Main Street Market)

Parked vehicles on City streets must be removed by 12:00 P.M., or run the risk of being
towed by the Middletown Police at the owner's expense. If a vehicle is towed during the
parking ban, you may claim the vehicle by contacting the Middletown Police Department
at 347-6941. All payments, i.e., the ticket and towing charge, must be paid at the Police
Department before a vehicle is released.

The Mayor asks for everyone's cooperation. Due diligence will be exercised, but safety
will remain a priority. Please help the Public Works Department employees to properly
clear all City streets.

Middletown Schools Have Early Dismissal Today

Early dismissal due to weather today: Wednesday, February 29th.
  • Middletown High School will dismiss at 10:45am
  • Woodrow Wilson & Keigwin will dismiss at 11:45am
  • All elementary schools will dismiss at 12:45pm.
  • Click here for full tier schedule.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Q&A:MHS Girls Basketball Head Coach Rob Smernoff Looks Back on Season and Blue Dragons Chances in State Playoffs

Middletown girls basketball coach Rob Smernoff led the Blue Dragons to an 11-10 record in the regular season this year. Though his team slumped near the end of the season, Middletown finished 8-7 in the CCC South, and matched the school’s highest win total from the past six seasons. The Blue Dragons qualified as the nineteenth seed in the Class LL Tournament and will face off against 14th-seeded Masuk on the road Tuesday night. Smernoff spoke to the Middletown Eye about his young team’s improvement over the season, their struggles in February and their chances for success in the state tournament.

Middletown Eye
: In late January your team was 9-4 and playing very well. It looked like you were going to finish with a strong win total. From that point on your team struggled and went 2-6 through the rest of the season. What changed about how your play that caused you to get off track?

Rob Smernoff
: In the second half of the season we played some tough teams for the second time and this time on the road. Our schedule was harder and teams were more familiar with us. Our youth and freshness didn’t surprise them as much. We lost a number of close games down the stretch. It wasn’t like we were playing all that worse. The team was just facing a brutal schedule and the close games we were winning early on were not going our way anymore. The things that were going right at the beginning of the year were going wrong.

ME: How has the team responded to the tough stretch you have gone through? What is the player’s mindset right now?

RS: The players are responding great. They are having excellent practices. I can’t remember a team I’ve coached that has shown so much confidence in practice and in their preparation. They will be ready to go on Tuesday (against Masuk).

ME: What do you think has been your team’s biggest strength this season?

RS: They are truly a team. There is amazing chemistry on this team. Every practice and game is a complete group effort.

ME: What would you say is your most significant weakness?

RS: That would definitely be our height. Often times we struggle rebounding the ball. That’s been a significant problem in our last few losses, particularly against Bristol Eastern. There is a direct correlation between our lack of height and our struggles on the boards. You can’t make your team taller.

ME: Who have been your most important players this year?

RS: DeAsia Lawrence has been our leader and was All-Conference. She can put the ball in the basket and is our best passer. She also leads the team in steals. And Rejenn Mayo has taken on a ton of responsibility playing point guard as a sophomore. She has led us in every game.

ME: How did your offense improve, or not improve, over the course of the season?

RS: We improved a lot playing in a half-court offense. We’re more effective getting out and running, but as the year went on we learned to play in the half-court effectively and how to be patient and get good looks.

: Asking the same question, how did you change on defense?

RS: Our press got stronger and more aggressive over time.

ME: How did the regular season live up to your overall expectations?

RS: I would have liked to end the season better. But overall I am very happy with how our season went. We’re a young team that lost a lot of players, and yet we had the most victories for our school in a number of years. It was a satisfying season. All the credit for our performance goes to our kids.

ME: Your first round game in the Class L Tournament is at Masuk on Tuesday night. How well do you believe your team matches up to Masuk, and what do you think your team’s chances are of winning this game?

RS: I think our teams are very evenly matched. I feel like if we played them ten times we would win five games and lose five games. It should be a close game against a tough team. The tough games we’ve had have made us ready for this.

: If you defeat Masuk, what do you believe your chances are of making a good run in the tournament?

RS: In Class L there are two teams at the top in E.O. Smith and Pomperaug that are in a class by themselves. After that I feel like there are 16 teams that can all beat each other. If we beat Masuk we would face Bacon Academy, who’s the third seed. That would be another tight game, but I could definitely see us beating them. After that anything could happen.

Mercy Defeats Stamford 52-37 in Opening Round of Class LL tournament

It wasn’t the prettiest or most cleanly played game its viewers have ever seen. But Mercy knows how to win a game when their shots aren’t falling, and for the 17th time this season they did just that. The Tigers defeated Stamford in the opening round of the Class LL tournament 52-37 at home.

Mercy started off slow on offense and led only 8-4 after one quarter, but pushed this lead to 24-11 at halftime as outside shots began to fall.

Though the Tigers outside shooting was spotty throughout the game, they were able to maintain a comfortable lead in the second half on the strength of their defense and by directing the ball inside for easy baskets and trips to the free throw line. Mercy cemented their 16-point victory in the fourth quarter by hitting nearly every three throw shot they had, of which there were many.

“I felt like we were playing good offensively for most of the game,” said head coach Tim Kohs. “We were running the offense well and getting open shots. We just weren’t hitting them. We need to execute better on that end going forward.”

Junior guard Maria Weselyj led Mercy with 21 points. Junior guard Jordyn Nappi scored 10 and junior forward Liz Falcigno added nine.

“Weselyj had a great game,” stated Kohs. “She had a mini-slump a few games back, but in the last two games she shot the lights out, which is nice to see at this time of year. I was also happy with the job Liz Falcigno did on defensively on Cognetta, who is their best player.”

Mercy will play St. Joseph of Trumbull, the No. 3 seed in the LL tournament, on the road Thursday at 7 p.m. St. Joseph is 19-3 this season. Kohs sees the matchup as a tossup game that is there for the taking.

“I like how we’re playing right now”, stated Kohs. “To win against anybody going forward we’ll need to execute better on both ends and make open shots. If we play like that than any game is winnable.”

Monday, February 27, 2012

Writing At Wesleyan

Writing At Wesleyan presents

Author Colum McCann

The 2012 Annie Sonnenblick Lecturer

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

Memorial Chapel, 221 High Street, Middletown, CT

8 P.M.

Celebrated author Colum McCann will read from his recent work on Wednesday, February 29th, 2012 at 8:00 P.M. in Wesleyan University’s Memorial Chapel, 221 High Street, Middletown, CT.

Mr. McCann comes to campus to deliver the Annie Sonnenblick lecture, a major annual event that brings a distinguished literary figure to campus each year.

Colum McCann’s most recent book, Let the Great World Spin, was described by Esquire as the first major post-9/11 novel, and received the 2009 National Book Award, an award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the 2011 IMPAC International Prize. “Leave it to an Irishman,” said Dave Eggers, "to write one of the greatest-ever novels about New York.” McCann’s six other books include Zoli, Dancer, and This Side of Brightness. He teaches in the creative writing program at Hunter College.

Of McCann’s recent work, Let the Great World Spin, Jonathan Mahler has said in the New York Times Book Review, "One of the most electric, profound novels in years. Let the Great World Spin is an emotional tour de force. It is a heartbreaking book, but not a depressing one.”

Ruth Scurr praised McCann’s title in The Telegraph: "McCann makes his prose dance across the surface of this ingeniously constructed novel. He is a fearless writer, experimenting with narrative styles, leaping from one story to the next.”

Free and open to the public.

Book signing to follow the reading.

For more information, please call 860.685.3448 or visit

Attached is a photo of Colum McCann for your use.

MxCC Fine Arts Students Selected to Exhibit at the Hartford Art School

Two MxCC student artists, Susan Bukowsky from Clinton and Jamie Nowik from Moodus, were selected to be part of the “Community” exhibit at the Hartford Art School’s Slipe Gallery in West Hartford.  Their work, which includes oil paintings, color pencil drawings, photography, and sculpture, showcases the variety and quality of creativity achieved regularly at the MxCC fine arts department. The new exhibit, which is a first-ever collaboration between the Hartford Art School and the 12 Connecticut Community Colleges, runs through March 7.

MxCC Fine Arts Department students Susan Bukowsky (pictured) and Jamie Nowik were selected to display their art at the “Community” exhibit at Hartford Art School.

MxCC professors Judith DeGraffenried and Matt Weber selected these two students to represent the Fine Arts Department at the exhibit because of their impressive body of completed works.  Bukowsky’s five pieces included two oil paintings (a study after a Monet water lily landscape, and a vibrant depiction of an ocean scene from the bow of a cruise ship), two digital color photographs (tiger cub, and a facial profile of two elephants), and an alabaster sculpture of a fish swimming through coral.  Nowik displayed two oversized pieces -- an oil painting portrait of a woman, and a colored pencil drawing of Tony Montana from “Scarface” done in powerful dark hues on a piece of orange-toned canson paper.

More than 150 guests attended the opening reception at Slipe Gallery on Thursday, February 23, including MxCC faculty and fellow art students.  The MxCC artwork hangs on the first visible wall upon entering the exhibit – providing the valuable first impression to viewers.

“This is a wonderful experience for our students and our college,” said DeGraffenried.  “I really think Susan and Jamie’s work stands out at the exhibit as among the best of show, and as exceptional examples of the impressive work our students are creating.  They are wonderful, hard working artists who will enjoy great careers. We encourage everyone to check out this inspiring show while it is taking place at the Hartford Art School.”

Bukowsky began taking classes at MxCC after enrolling her son and then learning more about the college’s fine arts department.  She credits her professors with taking her to a much higher level as an artist than she ever imagined.  Today, she is a member of the Clinton Art Association and is building her reputation as a landscape and portrait artist.  Bukowsky will graduate from MxCC in May.

This was the first time Nowik has exhibited his art outside of MxCC and he was pleased with the overwhelmingly positive response.  He came to MxCC because of the art department, which he considers to be “by far the best” in the state.  He also will graduate from MxCC in May and plans to transfer to the School of Visual Arts in New York City to continue studies in commercial art.

Founded in 1966, Middlesex Community College ( is part of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities Board of Regents for Higher Education. The school offers more than 50 degree or certificate programs at its three locations:  the main, 38-acre campus in Middletown, the downtown Meriden Center, and the shoreline in Old Saybrook.  The college promotes understanding, learning, ethics, and self-discipline by encouraging critical thinking.  Current enrollment exceeds 2,875 full and part-time students, and 1,600 continuing education students.

Green Party Event Scheduled at First Church

Green Party Event at First Church, 5 pm
Thursday, March 1, 2012

Dr. Jill Stein, Green Party presidential candidate, will speak at First Church on Wednesday, March 1, at 5 pm. Dr. Stein will speak on issues pertaining to Green Party issues and the creation of a Green New Deal (

Some include proposals to end unemployment, transition to more sustainable energy infrastructures, financial reform, strengthening protection for voters' rights, and limiting the power of corporations.

Dr. Stein is a physician and environmental-health advocate. All are welcome and the event is free  and will be held at First Church of Christ, at 190 Court Street.

For more information on Dr. Stein and the Green Party see websites at and

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Lest we forget ...

Pushin' Up Daffodils: Bretton Road, 2008.
A Post Script
to "Try to Remember"

In my view, the best management is "invisible" management. And to me, the management of Middnight on Main 2012 was virtually invisibleit was oh-so smooth and so well done that I simply did not notice it! Which is why my little reminiscence doesn't mention it. Invisible management and supervision: the sign of superior planning and performance, the mark of a truly superior event.

Xavier Wins First State Open Wrestling Title

Led by wins from senior captains Tyler Cunningham and Sean Marinan Jr., Xavier won its first ever State Open wrestling title at New Haven’s Floyd Little Athletic Center.

The Falcons finished with 132 points to top rivals Hand (121.5) and Danbury (118.5). Glastonbury and Bacon Academy rounded out the top five. Middletown placed ninth with 55 points.

The title was the team’s third in as many weeks. Xavier won the Southern Connecticut Conference crown over Hand on February 12th and the Class LL title last weekend.

“I am really happy for the kids, parents and coaches involved with our team,” said head coach Michael Cunningham. “Our wrestlers worked so hard and sacrificed so much for this championship.”

“I knew coming in we would have a strong showing and would probably finish in the top three. We just had to focus and leave everything out there on the mat. Luckily we didn’t leave too much room to spare.”

Tyler Cunningham, Michael Cunningham’s son, won the title at 150 pounds and Marinan, Xavier’s other finalist, was champion at 220.

Junior Elliot Antler placed third at 170, sophomore Will Chowanec fourth at 113 and senior Ryan Butler fifth at 145 for Xavier.

Cunningham, the Class LL champion at 160 pounds, defeated Ledyard’s Alex Manwaring 7-2 in the final to win his first Open title. Cunningham was third at 145 in last year’s State Open.

“This has been my life goal ever since I was a little kid,” said Cunningham to the New Haven Register.

Marinan took down Masuk’s Eric Tucker in a epic battle that spanned four overtimes. Tied at one going into the overtime period, each wrestler would add a point in the first three overtimes before Marinan escaped Tucker seven seconds into the fourth to capture individual title 3-2. Marinan, who was second last season, celebrated the victory by jumping into assistant coach Kyle St. George arms.

“This is amazing for me to go out like this,” Marinan stated to the Hartford Courant. “To go back-to-back with football and wrestling is so special….But with wrestling it’s different. [Xavier had] never won one before, so now all our numbers go up on the wall. We’re immortal now.”

The story for Middletown was again Devon Carillo. The senior won at 182, his second consecutive state title after winning at 171 last season. Carillo defeated Weaver’s Sheldon Rhoden 7-2 in the final.

Senior Andrew Carignan finished fourth at 120 for Middletown and junior Randy Hale was sixth at 160.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Try to Remember ...

or ...

Tired of Waiting for a Snowy Day

Yesterday's miserable weather notwithstanding, I've been waiting since January 2nd for a snowy day. There was one snowday—January 21st (is that right?), a Saturday. But that was the day of a memorial service for a beloved Aunt, who passed away just short of her 103rd birthday. Besides that, my computer completed failed after a malware attack before Christmas. So between no-snow, the memorial service, and the defunct computer, I have been waiting nearly two months to complete this posting about Middletown's Middnight on Main 2012.

As I began this posting on Tuesday, 22 February, I was still hoping (sort of ... theoretically anyway) for that snowy day. But now, as it's almost the end of February, I'm tired of waiting! So here it is. Perhaps you'll read it regardless of the continuing fair weather (until today). ... After all, that was a night to remember.

Middnight Special
Middletown’s New Year’s Eve celebration has been pronounced by many a resounding success; so what could be better than reminiscing about that time on Main Street? The streets bright, the sky darkening by the hour. Walkers by the dozens – big kids, little kids, strolling hand in hand, both sides and down the middle of Main Street with fancy hats, new mittens (hardly needed), little crowns flashing gold and red and green, Christmas lights, wreaths and holly, shops lit up, feeling the groove. Note: No moving cars!

A light fog creates a wisp of mystery in the balmy chill of the Eve of the New Year. And these are the reminiscences of one person in the crowd.

The Grand Slambovians
The heart of the matter for me—the places where I spent most of my time: the First Church sanctuary and Parish Hall. Gandalf Murphy and the Slambovian Circus of Dreams pretty much took over the Sanctuary for a while that night—The Grand Slambovians (below, left), as they call themselves. It seems they’re from—where else? Slambovia! But perhaps via Kazakhstan, or Woodstock (NY), or Santa Cruz, or Portland, maybe with a quick detour through Pennsylvania Dutch country.

Their Amish-esque front man’s gravelly voice rises as if from Middle Earth as I assess singer Tink’s exotic head-dress (alas, not shown)—half human, half divine, then find myself looking for a camel … or at least a camel saddle! (Midnight at the Oasis?) … And I wonder, knowing about Slambovian coffee from The Buttonwood Tree menu (it’s an aromatic fair-trade variety that the group markets as a sideline), I wondered—does coffee really grow in Slambovia? I doubt it! But then, really, just where is Slambovia? Is it on this Earth? Maybe east of Eden? South of the Taklimakan Desert? Or maybe just this side of Paradise?

Note: Anyone who spends any amount of time with Senorina Sycamore (aka Anne-Marie) has heard a fair amount (or perhaps more than that) about Gandalf Murphy and the Slambovian Circus of Dreams. Well, now, we have seen them perform in Middletown, and I think they are fine. Very fine.

Sock Hoppy New Year with My Friend the Witch-Doctor
Moving on to the Parish Hall, after a few minutes at the Sock Hop, I start thinking about the people I grew up with, danced at sockhops with — some are dead and some are living. I think of sweet Tom H. (aka "Kookie" because of his habit of whipping out his comb and combing his hair), who survived Viet Nam, only to die riding his Harley through the back roads of CT. (Last night I watched the film, Girl Interrupted, interesting film, with at least one memorable line: "The lucky ones went to Woodstock; the rest went to Viet Nam.")

Ok, back to the sock hop: Beach Boys (I didn’t hear their songs at the sock hop, but I wasn't there for long.... were they played? I would think so. And, Surfer Girl, Surfin’ Safari, or maybe even California Dreamin’, Blue Velvet, Kathy's Clown). Timely, to some extent ... history repeating itself somehow, at least for me.… Anyway, here we are swaying on New Year’s Eve at the First Church Parish Hall—a perfect place for dancing, actually (dare I say, better than Vinnie's?). And watching a quartette of seasoned and sweaty ladies facing off on the dance floor, going for the beat with wild abandon, I listen to strains of "My Friend the Witch-Doctor," sung by a bona fide witch-doctor type. I couldn’t decide which was scarier--the hair on his head or the hair on his chest. We may be thankful that he didn’t have a spear! (Did anyone get a picture of him?)

Looking for the Parish Halls
Moving around through the crowd that evening, twice I glimpse a diminutive woman, slight, with longish grey-white hair, hand in hand with a platinum-haired, long-haired, pony-tailed gent. Twice I turn and watch, looking to see their faces, and wonder, could they be the former First Church Pastor and his bride? …. Has he really grown a 6-month pony tail since retiring? No ... both times it’s not the pastoral pair, but another handsome couple, people I don’t recognize. Probably just as well.

Slambovians in the Sanctuary
Back to the Slambovians in the Sanctuary. They sing Pushing Up Daisies, a mysterious tale of a place where no one ever dies. Quasi-psychedelic daisies multi-morph in back of the altar on dark, polished wood beneath the rising ranks of organ pipes (below, right).

The music riffles on. I watch, feeling the beat, as the daisies come and go (did you see them?), whirling and fading. And then they glow and grow into a face. It’s a familiar face—a face I’ve seen before. Could it be?— I see a face resembling the face on the Shroud of Turin. I’m surprised at first, but then listen to the words... "where no one ever dies."... Eternal Life? Daisies? And then it seems to make sense. After all, if the face of the Virgin Mary can appear on a potato chip or a piece of toast, then why not the visage of Christ above the altar at First Church? Why not, indeed! (Did you see it, too?)

(Above right) Full-Service Sanctuary: Gandalf Murphy and the Slambovian Circus of Dreams sing "Pushin’ Up Daisies" at First Church of Christ, Congregational (UCC), Middletown, CT, at Middnight on Main, 2011, Middletown’s own New Year’s Eve celebration.

Feathers and Dreds
Back at the sock hop, I see the Doorman, a tall, dignified fellow in a mask with feathers, and dredlocks—a little flamboyant, as befits the occasion (and the man!). The Parish Hall is packed, the Parish Hall is hopping, and he is calmly watching. Who is that masked man? And more importantly, did anyone get a picture of him? I wonder.

Roof-Top Light Show
Outside, earlier, I watch as blasts of roof-top fireworks play up the carnival atmosphere. Oohs and aahs. Lights show through misty branches of trees at the south side of Holy Trinity (as at left), which is exactly where I’m standing for the show. Smoky washes and blitzes of light. Mingling wisps of fog and smoke. Waves of laughter, then giggles, and waves. Little kids loving it, parents glad for a safe night on the streets of Middletown, a safe place to come home to. Safe to celebrate in, safe for now. And safe, we pray, for a long, long time.

At left: Middnight 2012's Roof-top Fireworks: So much better than last year’s rooftop drama!

Cascades of Confetti
Those who stayed around long enough were treated to a showers of confetti on the stroke of midnight!

The After Glow
The next day, New Year’s Day, parts of Middletown were still shimmering—still humming, and smiling. Maybe we all were, for a few days….

And no doubt Mr. Mark Maselli (at right), the happy organizer as someone I know called him—(you know him as the Community Health Center (CHC) President and CEO, the Chairman of the Board, as it were). No doubt Mr. Maselli is still smiling. Well, he has reason to smile: It was a fine show!

p.s. The best of management is "invisible" management, in my view. And from my viewpoint, the management of this event was virtually invisible--so smooth and so well done that I did not notice it! Which is why this little reminiscence doesn't even mention it. Invisible management and "overseers," the sign of truly superior planning and performance.

Photos from roof, balcony, street, venues, and of Mr. Maselli, courtesy of Mr. T. Davis. The photo of The Grand Slambovians is from their publicity materials.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Sunday at First Church: First Sunday in Lent

Lent Begins Sunday, February 26  
Worship Begins at 10 am

First Church of Christ,
Congregational (UCC)
190 Court St.
Middletown, CT

First Church is an Open and Affirming church. No matter where you are in life's journey, you are welcome. Come worship with us this Sunday.

Scripture Reading: Genesis 2:15-17, 3:1-7; Matthew 4:1-11

Sermon: Falling into Grace -- Lent starts us in a place of reflection about a world off the track and the mistakes of our own lives. One Biblical foundation for this is the second creation story in Genesis, where, as traditionally understood, Adam and Eve “fall from grace.” Another is the story of Jesus in his own time of testing in the wilderness: Since he knows utterly who he is, this is more like a “fall into grace.” How might we see, and live, with the awareness that we too – imperfect as we are – are falling into grace?

Prelude: Character Piece No. 10, Robert Schumann
Hymn: Lord Jesus, Who through Forty Days
Anthem: I Want Jesus To Walk With Me, arr. Leah Hefner
  The Senior Choir
Hymn: Guide My Feet
Offertory: Character Piece No. 11, Robert Schumann
Hymn: A Mighty Fortress Is Our God

Church School: K-5 ~ Bible Study: Matthew 19

Second Hour: Interim Discussion #6. What kind of pastoral leader do we need to call?

Come visit for worship in the Parish Hall. The service begins at 10 a.m. with our Interim Pastor, the Rev. Dr. Brenda Pelc-Faszcza. Sunday school meets during worship and child care is provided.

Beman Triangle: Community Archaeology Symposium Tomorrow

The Beman Triangle is one of our city's most important historical sites. The triangle, located around the Cross Street A.M.E. Zion Church (near Neon Deli), was a thriving community of African Americans in the middle of the 19th century. Many of of the residents owned their homes, and the community played an important part in the Underground Railroad.

Wesleyan students and faculty will undertake archaeological excavations in the Beman triangle this spring, to learn more about the day-to-day life of its residents. They hope to "bring together the Wesleyan, AME Zion, and wider Middletown community to explore and remember the history of life at the site."

This Saturday, Wesleyan is sponsoring a symposium on the topic of community archaeology. Three speakers will discuss related projects. More details about the speakers and the Beman Triangle are HERE.

The Wesleyan Library Special Collections has a related exhibit on the Cross Street A.M.E. Zion Church available HERE.

The forum will be from 1pm to 4pm at the former Cross Street AME Zion Church. Sarah Croucher, organizer of the Symposium, emphasized that all interested Middletown community members are welcome to attend this free event.

Digging Together
Community Archaeology: Practice and Potential

Saturday February 25. 1pm – 4.30pm, Cross Street Church (Between Knowles and Vine St, opposite the Freeman Athletic Center)

  • 1.15pm, Cheryl LaRoche (U of Maryland) “The Power of Community: Archaeology, the Black Church, and the Landscape.”
  • 2.30pm, Stephen Silliman (U Mass Boston) “The Eastern Pequot Archaeological Field School: A Community Collaboration in Connecticut”
  • 3.15pm, Whitney Battle-Baptiste(U Mass Amherst) “An Archaeology for the Living: Bringing the Past into the Present Through Dialogue, Collaboration, and Real Exchange.”
  • 4.00pm, discussion, followed by a reception and informal conversation

Middletown Defeats Berlin in First Round of CCC Tourney

Coming into tonight’s CCC Tournament first-round game versus Berlin, Middletown had reason to be confident. They had earned the number six seed in the tournament by winning eight of ten to close the regular season. The Blue Dragons had easily defeated Berlin twice during the regular season. But as any coach knows, everything goes back to square one when tournament play starts and their teams have to prove themselves all over again under pressure. With their 58-42 win over the Redcoats, Middletown demonstrated they can handle this pressure and that they have no intention of stopping their hot play.

Believe it or not, Berlin came into what turned into a blow out with a solid game plan. The Redcoats looked to slow play down and force a strong offensive squad in the Blue Dragons into a defensive battle. For a short time, Berlin did just that, slowing things down initially and taking a 5-2 lead early in the first quarter. However, Middletown would defeat that strategy by showing patience and controlling the defensive boards while eventually speeding the pace up. As the Blue Dragons continued to follow that strategy they were able to take a 10-7 advantage at the end of the first quarter and push it to 27-14 at the half. And that’s how a crucial first-round tournament matchup was essentially finished at halftime.

Of course, this statement is simplifying what actually occurred during the first half. In the later portion of the first half Middletown guards Shawn Strickland and Jacquan Collins (seven assists) were able to consistently get the ball inside to big men Mikie Rhodes and Brandon Simmons. At the same time, the Blue Dragons were getting strong pressure on the defensive end and leading Berlin to commit costly turnovers. Over seven minutes Middletown went on a 14-2 run.

“I’m really proud of our defense tonight,” said head coach Dave Sytulek. “We played great defense by constantly moving our feet and pressuring their players. And we contained (Bobby) Mozzicato for the entire game.”

After continuing their formidable play on both ends at the start of the second half, Middletown briefly relaxed on both defense and was slowed down by Berlin’s zone defense on the offensive end, permitting the Redcoats to get as close as 42-36 before Sytulek called a timeout. After that timeout, the Blue Dragons struck. From about the two minute mark of the third quarter to halfway through the fourth Middletown displayed the full power of its offense, scoring on ten straight possessions from all points on the floor. Though many of these points came from their big men in or just outside the paint, the team’s most memorable baskets were from beyond the arc. Shawn Strickland scored the Blue Dragons final points of the third quarter to push their lead to 41-30 and Jerry Robinson drained a three with just less than five minutes remaining to give his squad a 21-point advantage, one of four back-breaking three-balls he earned on the night.

“They were trying to stop us with their zone defense all night,” Sytulek said of his team’s key offensive run at the end of the third quarter. “We were able to counteract them by being patient and running the right sets. We found open looks.”

Nearly every one of Middletown’s core players made key contributions to the winning effort. Robinson made four threes and had 14 points. The backcourt of Collins and Strickland totaled 11 assists between them. Rhodes had eight points and 12 rebounds and Simmons had nine points and eight rebounds.

Middletown will face 19-1 Northwest Catholic, the number three seed in the CCC Tournament, on Saturday night at Bulkley High School. Though the Indians are a formidable opponent, Sytulek is confident his squad can defeat any opponent in the conference and state tournaments if the Blue Dragons play up to their ability.

“Our team is peaking at the right time,” he stated. “We have great team chemistry and you can never underestimate that. How far we will go will depend on the teams we draw and how well we match up with them.”

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Q&A: Xavier Basketball Head Coach Michael Kohs Looks Back on Season and Falcons Chances in State Playoffs

Middletown Eye: Xavier went 3-7 in its first 10 games and was 7-3 in its second 10 games. What changed during the second half of the regular season?

Michael Kohs: We got off to a poor start because we were very inexperienced at the guard positions and were making a lot of mistakes there. Our lack of execution led to a lot of turnovers and combined with our inability to hit free throws, we were unable to hold onto leads late in games. We lost five of our first six games, but we had the lead or were tied in the final minute of each of those losses.

ME: So how have you improved in the backcourt and those basic areas since your early struggles?

MK: First of all, we’ve done a much better job of taking care of the ball. I believe our turnovers have fallen from 24 per game in our first 10 games to 12 in our last 10 games. And having (freshman guard) Elijah Pemberton back helped us be a lot more explosive and sound fundamentally.

ME: You recently told the Middletown Press that your team had overcome your tendency earlier in the season to succumb to pressure from other teams and surrender leads. In what way has the team become stronger at holding onto leads and responding to pressure?

MK: I believe that as the season went on the experience we gained and our improved shooting allowed us to hold onto leads easier. In the first part of the season we would struggle and fold under pressure. Know we’ve responded better to that and are showing more toughness.

ME: You’ve spoken a lot of how your offense has improved tremendously during the season. How has your defense improved?

MK: Our defense has been built off of our ability to rebound. We’ve become a very good rebounding team and have outrebounded our opponents in every game this year. We stay in every game because of our rebounding. That being said, our defense has to get better and play harder from here on out as we move into the playoffs. We’re going to be facing very strong teams who we most likely haven’t seen this year.

ME: Can you talk a little about the play of your star senior forward Jovan Santos-Knox?

MK: Jovan is amazing. I don’t know where our team would be without him this year. He’s a beast inside and incredibly difficult for anyone to defend, and he has great hands and is as strong as an ox. He the best drop-step of any player I’ve ever coached. And he’s so incredibly consistent game after game. Jovan’s easily averaging a double-double this year.

MK: Besides Santos-Knox, which players does your team really rely on to win?

MK: Junior guard James Sullivan has been playing really well for us. He’s been knocking down big shots and is our second most consistent player after Jovan. We need a little more upfront from seniors Connor Landers and Michael Manion. They’ve done some really good stuff for us at times but we need more consistency from them.

ME: The team’s struggle with shooting free throws has been constant and well-publicized. Do you have any one reason you can point to for these struggles, and is there any way you can improve at shooting them at this point?

MK: I don’t know what to tell you. We practice them a lot every day at practice and do our best to simulate the pressure of shooting them in a game, though that is very hard to do. We just need to step up and make free throws under pressure in the playoffs. We need to make them to win games.

ME: The 10-10 record Xavier had this season is its poorest in a long time, and as a result the team is going to get a very low seed in the Class LL Tournament. How can you overcame these barriers and make a run in states?

MK: I can see us making a good run in states. We went on a good run last year where we beat then number one seed and advanced to the quarterfinals, and we only lost two seniors from last year’s team. The bottom line is we’ve been playing much better and have come through in must win games like our win at West Haven. Teams are not going to want to play us and understand we are better than our record.

ME: As the number ten seed in the SCC Tournament you are playing at number seven seed Hand on Thursday night, who you haven’t played this season. What do you think of Hand and of your chances in that matchup?

MK: It’s going to be a tough game. Hand is a very good shooting team and they are physical. We expect it to be a physical game and a tough test in a demanding environment. I think we have a good shot at winning, but it’s going to be a challenge.

ME: You said that Xavier is most likely going to play 19-1Windsor in the state tournament as the 29th seed. You had a huge upset against Windsor last year in states. How likely is it that you could defeat them and advance past the first round?

MK: Windsor is an excellent team and we will have to have everything go right to beat them. They may have added incentive to beat us after what happened last year. We definitely won’t surprise them. I would have liked to play another team.

Oddfellows Welcomes New Circus Director

Oddfellows Playhouse is pleased to announce that Jason Leinwand (pictured) will lead the 24th Children’s Circus of Middletown.

Jason Leinwand joined the Children's Circus of Middletown in the summer of 1997. With a few breaks here and there, this upcoming year with be his 13th circus! From 1997-2001, and again from 2003-2006, Leinwand brought his skills as a studio artist to the Children’s Circus, where he served as the lead teaching artist on the Art Room. As a graduate of Wesleyan University and NYU with degrees in Studio Arts, Jason returned in 2009 as the Technical Director and Designer where he has remained until the present time. Oddfellows is extremely excited to welcome Jason as the Director where he hopes to continue the tradition of leading the challenging, exciting and spectacular circus program that Middletown and its many families have enjoyed for nearly 25 years.

The Children's Circus offers an exceptionally unique program where the whole family and the entire whole community, can get involved in the making of something truly inspiring and special. Leinwand is especially excited about the community focus of this arts program, “As the Technical Director I was fortunate to spend a lot of time building, paper macheing, painting, cutting watermelon and laughing with circus kids and their families during our bi-weekly tech sessions held in the evenings at the Remington Rand space.” Leinwand goes on to say, “In my opinion, this is the essence of what the circus is. It's a place where everyone is welcome to participate. The circus is a place where all of our individual skills are collaged together to create an unbelievable spectacle that everyone can be proud to be a part of. We become a community of artists and over time, one big circus family.”

The Children’s Circus of Middletown is a partnership between Oddfellows Playhouse, the City of Middletown and Middletown Commission of the Arts and is part of the Kids Arts program. The 5-week, half day program begins on July 2 and runs until the performance on August 3. During this time, students ages 8-14 are develop a variety of circus skills including juggling, unicycling, stilting, acrobatics, capoiera, balance and clowning. The program culminates in an outdoor circus performance in front of a crowd of nearly 1,500 people. Each year the circus explores a different theme, with recent circuses focusing on “In Your Dreams”, “Eat’s All Good” and last year’s “The Quest for the Golden Nose”.

What unique energy does Leinwand bring to this year’s Circus? “The Children's Circus is an exciting place year in and year out. I feel my main role as Director is to maintain a high energy level, a goofy demeanor, an open mind to the imaginations of others and an anything is possible attitude. I have had the great fortune of seeing many circus kids grow up and become amazing counselors, teaching artists and circus performers. As the Director, I look to be inspired by them. In essence, the collective circus experience of the staff far outweighs my own individual time with the circus and only together, as a community, can we fully unleash the full wackiness that is our cherished and beloved Children's Circus of Middletown!”

For more information on the program and how to register, visit or Registration forms are available at the City of Middletown Arts Office, Russell Library or Oddfellows Playhouse. Registration opens on March 1 to city residents. The program is $125 for Middletown residents and $250 for out of town students. Busing is available for Middletown students.

Oddfellows’ Children’s Circus of Middletown programming is made possible through the generous support of the City of Middletown, Middletown Commission on the Arts, Middlesex United Way and many others. Media support is provided by Comcast.

Michael Bennet To Give Wesleyan Commencement Address

Wesleyan President Michael Roth has announced that a leading advocate for public education will be the primary speaker at Wesleyan's graduation ceremonies on May 27th.

Roth effusively praised Bennet's accomplishments in a statement:


Michael F. Bennet ’87 was elected to his first full term as U.S. Senator for Colorado in November 2010. He is a pragmatic and independent thinker who embodies the values of the western state he represents, and whose work has contributed to good in the world, in the best of the Wesleyan tradition.

"SPILL", directed by Leigh Fondakowski, in Beckham Hall (Feb. 25 & 26)

"SPILL" portraits and photos by Reeva Wortel.
Center for the Arts Director Pamela Tatge talks to Josh Cohen ’14 and Matthew Krakauer ’14 about what they learned from writer Leigh Fondakowski and scientist Barry Chernoff, in the following entry from the CFA blog. "SPILL", Ms. Fondakowski's collaboration with visual artist Reeva Wortel, will be performed in Beckham Hall this weekend (Feb. 25 & 26).
I went to Beckham Hall on Tuesday as Leigh Fondakowski and Reeva Wortel were loading in elements for SPILL, a new work that Wesleyan and others have commissioned about the 2010 Gulf Coast oil spill. We’ve seen images of Reeva’s portraits, but finally we were able to see the eight foot tall canvasses unpacked. They are life-sized representations of the people whom Fondakowski and Wortel interviewed, people whose lives were changed forever.
This weekend, the stories of oyster fishermen, Tea Party Republicans, families of oil riggers and others will be told in a choral reading format by Fondakowski’s New York-based cast. Wesleyan students also had the chance to meet and interview some of these people when they took a course that Fondakowski and Barry Chernoff, Director of the College of the Environment, co-taught last summer in and around New Orleans.

McMahon Fired

Mayor Dan Drew fired former Acting Chief of Police Patrick McMahon this morning, after a 45 minute hearing in the Mayor's Office.

The hearing was a Loudermill hearing, which is a required hearing whenever a public official is terminated. The hearing was an opportunity for McMahon to present his side of the circumstances which have led Drew to fire him.

Drew has said that his action is based on the results of an investigation led by Eric Daigle, who has been paid about $10,000 for his investigation on behalf of the city. The Daigle report listed three violations of Middletown Police Department rules committed by McMahon: untruthfulness, use of intoxicants, and conduct unbecoming. In addition, it accused McMahon of having issued direct threats of retaliation, providing false information to the Middletown Press, and insubordination.

Green Party Presidential Candidate to Visit Middletown

    • Thursday, March 1, 2012
    • 5:00pm until 7:00pm
  • First Church of Christ-Ucc, 190 Court Street
  • Green Party presidential candidate, physician, and environmental-health advocate Dr. Jill Stein will be speaking in Middletown on March 1st. Dr. Stein advocates for the creation of a "Green New Deal," ( which aims to end unemployment, transition to a more sustainable energy infrastructure, initiate financial reform, and strengthen democracy by protecting voters' rights and limiting the power of corporations.
    If you're interested in Dr. Stein's campaign, curious about the Green Party, or frustrated by the politics of the two-party system, come to the event on March 1st!

    This will be at the First Church of Christ, located at 190 Court Street.

    More Info on Jill Stein/the Green Party:

    Presented by the Wesleyan College Greens (for more info email