Saturday, January 25, 2020

Genealogy Club
Godfrey Memorial Library, 134 Newfield Street, Middletown

Saturday, February 01, 2020
9:30 - 11:00 am

“Channeling Your Inner Columbo:  Going Beyond Vital Records to Expand Your Family Tree”
with Dorena Wasik

What does Columbo have to do with genealogy?  On the series, he always found a small detail – overlooked by everyone else – that solved the case.  In this presentation, we will learn to look for those small details to find unknown family and bring our family trees to life.  There are many useful documents to be found beyond birth, marriage, or death certificates (BMD).  They include ship arrival records, naturalization papers, and obituaries, among many other items.  Just because you think you know all the information you need, take another look to find some valuable clues.

Dorena Wasik has been doing Polish genealogy research for over 10 years.  She has spoken at several genealogy conferences in Poland, helping Polish genealogists to find their American family.  She is member of the Polish American Foundation of Connecticut, heading the program “Welcome Home” that reconnects Americans with their Polish roots.

Free to Godfrey Premium members.  $10 per session for all others.  Open to the general public.  Attendees will have time after the meeting to do research at the library.  Call the library at (86) 346-4375  if you have any questions.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Ongoing Environmental Film Series to Feature Free Screening of Artifishal February 3

Artifishal will be the next film in The Elements: An Annual Environmental Film Series. The film will be shown on Monday, February 3, 2020 at 7pm, at the Wesleyan University Center for the Arts Ring Family Performing Arts Hall, 271 Washington Terrace, Middletown, CT (next to the Zilkha Gallery).  As always, the film is open to the public and free of charge.  
Artifishal is about people, rivers, and the fight for the future of wild fish and the environment that supports them.  It explores wild salmon’s slide toward extinction, threats posed by fish hatcheries and fish farms, and our continued loss of faith in nature (  Following the film, we welcome you to stay for an informal discussion.  
We hope you can join us for our third film of the 2019-2020 season, as well as our final film in April (see below).  Please phone the Conservation District office for more information at 860-346-3282.
The remaining film in the 2019-2020 series is:
A Concerned Citizen: Civics in Action, April 6, 2020, Middlesex Community College, Chapman Hall, highlights the work of Dr. Riki Ott, a citizen activist who came to the aid of her Alaskan community after the Exxon Valdez oil spill in their battle to get fair compensation for their loss of health and income, and has been organizing the Gulf coast communities as they recover from the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster. Taking her lessons learned as an activist, she is spearheading a campaign called Ultimate Civics, a civics curriculum that empowers students to participate in their democracy. (
The Elements: An Annual Environmental Film Series is co-sponsored by the Connecticut River Coastal Conservation District, Middlesex Community College, Middletown Garden Club, The Rockfall Foundation, and Wesleyan University's Center for the Arts, College of the Environment, and College of Film and the Moving Image. 

NEAT To Host Community Meeting On Goals and Plans For North End

Submitted by Emily McEvoy
On Wednesday, January 29th, the North End Action Team (N.E.A.T.) will be holding a community meeting to discuss planning and zoning and community design in Middletown.

At Mayor Ben Florsheim’s town hall meeting on December 7th, 2019, issues raised included pedestrian safety in the city’s downtown area, garbage bin and recycling access, and the locations of various social services in the city, including St. Vincent De Paul’s soup kitchen. Many of these issues, which lie at the intersection of sustainable city planning and support for vulnerable communities in the city, are inherently connected to issues of urban and community design, which sparked interest in the topic for the community meeting.

The community meeting’s mission is to involve North End residents in particular in conversations about the city of Middletown’s updated Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD) for 2020. Items in the POCD that effect the North End, including the downtown trolley proposal and the redevelopment of Route 9 and the riverfront, will be discussed. 

Commenting on the larger goals of the city, Mayor Ben Florsheim has said that we must “[make] sure we have an economic development plan that serves the North End — not at the expense of North End residents.” NEAT intends for the community meeting to work towards this goal.

The community meeting’s agenda is being created in collaboration with Shanay Fulton, Planning and Zoning Committee Alternate and N.E.A.T community organizing veteran; Marek Kozikowski, Middletown City Planner; the Complete Streets Committee; Jeff Hush, President of the Middletown Green Community Center; and Kim O’Rourke, Middletown Recycling Coordinator. However, we are welcoming all conversation starters, and topics related to planning and zoning and community design in the city!

The meeting will be held at 7:00 PM at the Mac650 Gallery & Artist Co-op, 650 Main Street. Refreshments and childcare will be provided. We hope to see you there! RSVP here on Facebook. 

Buttonwood Tree Friday Night: On the WWUH Radar

The Andrew
Wilcox Trio


The Buttonwood

605 Main St.

WWUH broadcast an hour of special jazz this morning--featuring the music of John Coltrain, and talking with Andrew Wilcox, whose group, The Andrew Wilcox Trio, will be performing live tonight at The Buttonwood Tree, 8:00 pm - 10:00 pm. They treated us to a sample of the sounds of the Trio's tunes. 

The Andrew Wilcox Trio is a modern jazz group led by Hartford-based pianist Andrew Wilcox. Hailing from Worcester, MA, Andrew formed with Akron, OH, native, drummer Joshua Leslie and Worcester bassist Conway Campbell, Jr. during their time as students at the Hartt School of Music. Andrew is a senior there and will graduate this spring. Their selections include Andrew's own compositions as well as a variety of tunes from 70's and 80's jazz musicians. Andrew's originals are home grown, inspired by his time spent in nature and from his life experience.

Looking at the photo (above), you may think that Andrew, at right, looks a tad geeky. (We don't think he'd deny it.) But we assure you, in the humble opinion of our ears, the Trio's music sounds really good!  Come and listen for yourself--tonight, 8-10 pm, at The Buttonwood Tree. Hey, it's home grown.
  And there's plenty of free parking after 6 pm on the street and in back of ION MARKET.  

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Middletown Chosen as 1 of 3 Cities in Northeast - Coalition of Local Animal Organizations

Participate at The Buttonwood Tree -  Thursday Evening January 23 – Free Beverages to Survey Takers for 10 Minutes of Your Time!

PetSmart Charities has awarded a grant to a coalition of New England animal organizations, such as humane societies and animal shelters, to learn more about the needs of people, pets, and access to animal services. 

Middletown was chosen as one of three communities in which the research team would like to learn more about, and they are looking for about 50 more people to complete a short survey. It only takes 5 minutes if you don’t have pets, or about 10 minutes if you do own pets. They will be at The Buttonwood Tree on Thursday evening, January 23 from 7 – 9 p.m. during the evening DRUM CIRCLE.  Everyone that completes a survey will be given one free beverage of their choice as a thank you for participating and free entrance to the drum circle. You do not have to participate in the drum circle to take part in the survey.

If you are unable to swing by and participate, you can take the survey by following this link and you will receive a small Amazon gift card within 2-3 business days as a thank you for your time. Visit to complete the survey. Your participation will help local organizations better understand the needs of the community and how we can better support those needs in the future.

For more information, you can email Lauren Watkins at or call 904.299.9234.           

Lauren Watkins, PhDc
Director, Behavior Change Strategies
P: 904.377.6778

Saturday - Party & Silent Auction with The Rockfall Foundation

Join The Rockfall Foundation this Saturday January 25th to celebrate ring in the New Year with friends in the environmental community. From 2 to 4:30pm at the deKoven House Community Center, 27 Washington Street, we’ll be serving a variety of snacks and sweets, mulled wine, beer, cider and more. We’ll also have a silent auction. See a sampling of auction items below. All funds raised directly support Rockfall’s mission for environmental conservation and education in the lower Connecticut River valley. Free for members of The Rockfall Foundation and their families or +1 guest. Non-members: $10 adult, $5 kids 3-12. We hope you will join us for the festivities!

Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Funding Opportunity

Submitted by Lynda MacPherson, Middletown Community Development Specialist
Pursuant to the City of Middletown’s Citizens' Participation Plan, and the regulations of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Citizens' Advisory Committee will hold a public hearing to provide citizens, and citizen organizations, with an opportunity to comment on the use of an estimated $400,000 in anticipated Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) entitlement funds, and any additional program income and re-programmed funding for the 2020 grant year.

The city is interested in proposals that meet the goals and strategies outlined in the City's 5-year Consolidated Plan of Housing & Community Development, a summary of which will be included in the grant application. The City of Middletown will accept applications for any project which demonstrates a public benefit and fulfills an objective of the Consolidated Plan.

The hearing will be held on Wednesday, March 18th, 2020 at 6:00 p.m. in the Common Council Chambers of the Municipal Building, 245 deKoven Drive. Each applicant will be granted a five-minute time slot to present their proposal. The Citizens' Advisory Committee of the City of Middletown has established certain requirements for organizations who would like to receive program funds. Therefore, persons and organizations interested in submitting funding requests and/or commenting on the use of funds should obtain applications which are available in the Department of Planning, Conservation and Development, Room 202 of the Municipal Building or electronically.

There will be a voluntary CDBG application training session for grantees to learn about the application process on Wednesday, February 5th, 2020 at 10:00 a.m. in Room 208.

Completed funding requests should be submitted online or returned to the Community Development
Division of the Department of Planning, Conservation and Development no later than 3:00 p.m. on
Friday, February 14th, 2020.

For more information please contact the Community Development Specialist or call 860-638-4837.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Opinion: MLK Day Reflection

To celebrate Martin Luther King Day, I spent some time filling in some of the holes in my own knowledge of the civil rights movement.  The following reflection is the outcome of that exercise; scroll to the end to see the announcement for Wesleyan's 2020 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Commemoration.  (caritas, I am not sure that counts as truly taking the day off....). It is written primarily for my white friends, neighbors, and colleagues in an effort to honor the history and lived experience of my black friends, neighbors, and colleagues.  Your comments, corrections, and additions would be welcome.

Have you been to the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.?  I have been there once.  I started at the bottom floor, where the exhibits begin with the horrors of the Middle Passage, in which African abductees were brought across the Atlantic Ocean to their fate as slaves in the New World.  By lunchtime, I had only made it to the Civil War and its immediate aftermath.  I'll have to go back to finish. [Note: when I went, it was essential to reserve a free pass in advance.  Some passes are given out the day of the visit; I got up at 6 a.m. to reserve them.  It's worth looking into to avoid potential disappointment.  Also, the food in the museum cafeteria is excellent.]

What struck me on that visit is how terribly little I, as an educated white person, knew about African-American history.  So today, on Martin Luther King day, I took some time to learn a little more.  I was helped by the morning's excellent programming on WNPR.

Most everyone knows about Frederick Douglass, eloquent leader of the abolitionist movement (and staunch supporter of women's suffrage).  But how about Ida B. Wells, courageous chronicler of lynching at the turn of the 20th Century? Fed up with the wrongs, large and small, visited upon black Americans, she took up journalism and was eventually dismissed from her teaching job because of her outspokenness.  After an 1892 lynching in Memphis, she commenced research on this growing domestic terrorism.  Within months, she published a scathing editorial about the practice; the response was the burning of the newspaper where she worked and her forced migration north, where she continued to pursue her work tirelessly.  She was greatly admired by Douglass, who wrote

Dear Miss Wells:
Let me give you thanks for your faithful paper on the Lynch abomination now generally practiced against colored people in the South.  There has been no word equal to it in convincing power.  I have spoken, but my word is feeble in comparison. ... Brave woman!

Perhaps you are familiar with Billie Holiday's 1939 recording of "Strange Fruit", a wrenching poem about lynching set to music.  Holiday said she kept singing it because it reminded her of the pervasive racial injustice that was also responsible for her father's death due to withheld medical treatment.  When she performed it, she required that her cafe audience be quieted so that they would hear and reflect on the words.

As part of NPR's coverage, I listened to Terry Gross interview Bryan Stevenson on Fresh Air.  (Perhaps you saw his commencement address at Wesleyan in 2016.  Now you can see the movie dramatization of his memoir, Just Mercy, at Metro Movies 12).  Stevenson is the executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative and founder of the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, in Montgomery, Alabama.  The Memorial honors the memory of over 4000 victims of lynching from 1877-1950.  By all accounts, it is a powerful attempt to make tangible the otherwise unfathomable horrors perpetrated against African-Americans in post-Civil War America.

Most of us are familiar to some degree with Jim Crow Laws that states used to enforce segregation. We tend to think of these outrages as strictly state and local laws.  But during the 1930s and 1940s, as the federal government expanded its role in supporting an economically stressed society with new programs and safeguards, the Federal Housing Administration worked in concert with segregationists throughout the nation to ensure that African Americans were corralled in less desirable sections of America's cities.  The Agency's Underwriting Manual made clear its support of segregation; an article on the subject states that "the Manual went so far as to include an example of a restrictive covenant that would conform to FHA standards, primary among which was a prohibition against selling to a buyer of a different race than the seller.  Numerous other agency publications characterized restrictive covenants as vital tools of property protection that should be used to safeguard all new suburban developments from black encrachment."  Segregation was federal policy, too.

From the NPR coverage, I learned about the "Children's Crusade" of 1963, in which thousands of children converged on Birmingham, Alabama, only to be greeted by the water cannons and attack dogs of police chief Eugene "Bull" Connor.  From an eyewitness report in an article about the 50th anniversary in 2013:
Jessie Shepherd, then 16, was soaked when she was loaded up in a paddy wagon. “I was told not to participate,” says Shepherd, now a retired clinical diet technician. “But I was tired of the injustice.”
“I couldn’t understand why there had to be a colored fountain and a white fountain,” says Shepherd. “Why couldn’t I drink out the fountain that other little kids drank out of? As I got older, I understood that’s just the way it was, because my skin was black, and we were treated differently because of that.”
Organized by Martin Luther King, this was a turning point in public opinion.  Hundreds of children were arrested and threatened with expulsion from school.  But within a few days, the city had stood down and Connor, who two years before had lost the Alabama gubernatorial nomination to the less extreme (!) George Wallace, was relieved of his position.  The year after King's risky but successful gambit was his "I Have a Dream" speech, his "Man of the Year" award, and his Nobel Peace Prize.  In 1964, the senate voted to terminate a 54-day filibuster of the Civil Rights Act, legislation that had been promoted by President Kennedy but which had languished since his assassination the year before.

I hope my black friends will cut me a little slack for not having integrated this pivotal event into my understanding of the civil rights movement.  I was about to turn six at the time, but of course that's no excuse.  A few years later, I had teachers in Junior High and High school who challenged my understanding of race in my white little California town, but the civil rights movement and its aftermath were remote from my experience and too fresh to have been integrated into the curriculum.  And somehow I never got caught up.

Neither did some parts of the United States.  The Alabama constitution, the longest in the world and three times longer than the longest national constitution (India's), contains to this day a section requiring that "separate schools shall be provided for white and colored children, and no child of either race shall be permitted to attend a school of the other race." Efforts to amend the constitution to eliminate this distasteful language in 2004 and 2012 failed.  The requirement is unenforceable thanks to the Supreme Court's Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954.  The state's response to this decision was to successfully amend the constitution to state that Alabama does not guarantee a public education.

It is astonishing that so many of us, myself included, are so poorly acquainted with the history of the struggle for civil rights in the United States of America.  To move the needle a little and provoke a public discussion, the New York Times in August launched its "1619 Project", the 400th anniversary of the first conveyance of slaves to North America.  Its stated goal is to "reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of our national narrative."  It commences with an article by Nikole Hannah-Jones that is well worth reading.

The project has indeed provoked a public discussion, as well as pushback.  Some of it is out in the open, but more often it takes the form of linguistic contortions.  Take Hillsdale College in Hillsdale, Michigan, founded by abolitionists and open from its founding in 1844 to blacks and women.  Its president, Larry P. Arnn, worries about "freedom" so much that he feels compelled to misrepresent the 1619 project.  In an email to subscribers to his newsletter, he wrote
Last month, the New York Times launched its “1619 Project”—a series of essays intended to influence the curricula of schools nationwide. Its goal is to place the founding of America in 1619, when the first slave arrived in Jamestown, rather than in 1776, when the Declaration of Independence proclaimed that “all men are created equal” and endowed by God with “unalienable rights.”
Why would the New York Times want to teach young people that slavery is the central fact of American history, rather than the Declaration of Independence, whose principles are responsible for the abolition of slavery and for the preservation of our liberties for nearly 250 years?
The reason is that they have an ideological agenda: the authors of the “1619 Project” want to replace limited government under the Constitution, which was designed to preserve our “unalienable rights,” with a government of unlimited powers that will remake society in accordance with their ever-changing ideas of “progress.”
The flagship essay of the New York Times’ “1619 Project” claims that “our democracy’s founding ideals were false when they were written.” What if a majority of Americans come to agree with that? What if a majority of Americans decide to discard the principles of the Declaration and the Constitution?
Let’s never find out.
That sounds properly pious and all, but it involves a wholesale misrepresentation of the Project's intent.  True, the title of Hannah-Jones' essay begins: "Our democracy's founding ideals were false when they were written."  But it continues, "Black Americans have fought to make them true."  She is referring to the statement in the Declaration of Independence that "all men are created equal" -- the same one Arnn cites -- which was manifestly disingenuous until slavery was abolished.  Arnn twists her words so that he can rant about socialists, whom he sees behind every tree the way Joe McCarthy saw communists.  It is shameful that a self-styled educator of civic responsibility would rely on the informed ignorance of his readers to pull off such a stunt.

But no amount of dissembling or changing of the subject can change the history.  The United States was the third-to-last nation to abolish slavery, followed only by Cuba and Brazil.  It dragged its feet and delayed for another hundred years after passage of the Thirteenth Amendment.  Now demands for "law and order" at a time when crime rates are low mask the nearly universal terrororizing of black men.  Please listen to today's Fresh Air broadcast for Bryan Stevenson's stories of his personal experiences, which arrange from humiliating to harrowing.  Pretend you are an accomplished attorney who has argued multiple cases before the Supreme Court, as Stevenson has, and reflect on how those experiences would make you feel.  Then try them on as a jobless high school dropout in one of the impoverished jurisdictions the FHA collaborated in creating.

In Germany, you will find no monuments to the leaders of its apartheid regime and its persecution of, and eventual effort to exterminate, an ethnic minority.  Instead, you will find Stolpersteine ("stumbling blocks"), inconspicuous markers that must be "stumbled upon", denoting the location of the dwellings of the victims of Nazi persecution.  In the United States, we are only now beginning to have a robust discussion of the modern-day importance of Civil War monuments and state flags that contain the Confederate battle flag.  Imagine yourself a young black child -- can you do it? -- being taught in public school the importance of properly honoring that flag, along with secessionist heroes such as Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee.

The Confederate battle flag continues to serve as a lightning rod for conflict around the unresolved issue of slavery and the full participation of African Americans in the bountiful nation their ancestors' unremunerated labor helped to create.  It served and serves as an inspiration for white nationalists such as the shooter in the Charleston church massacre, an event that drove one woman to climb the flagpole outside the State House in South Carolina to bring it down.  Bree Newsome's act was one of several that has jump-started a renewed conversation about a dark past that shadows black Americans but which many white Americans continue to ignore.  I encourage you to come see her speak on Friday at Wesleyan University, at 12:30 in Crowell Concert Hall.  I believe that knowledge of the history of black Americans is essential for all Americans to understand and help shape America's trajectory.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Smarter Living: What to do with a day off

Excerpt from The New York Times Smarter Living e-newsletter. Worth reposting.
Let's just enjoy.
            (enewsletter)            January 20, 2020
 Author Headshot

     If you’re fortunate enough to have today off from work, the most important thing on your to-do list is to actually take the day off. Studies have shown that people send only 40 percent less email on holiday Mondays compared with regular Mondays. (Thank you, smartphones and tablets.) Not only that, but taking time to let your brain rest and recover “literally makes us more creative, better at problem-solving, better at coming up with creative ideas.”
So, great, we’re all out of work mode and ready to enjoy the day. But what to do? Here are a few suggestions on how best to spend your day off.

     Yes, yes, you’re busy, I’m busy, we’re busy-ing ourselves to exhaustion. But if you have today off, take a conscious stand against all this busyness. Being busy — if we even are busy — is rarely the status indicator we’ve come to believe it is. Nonetheless, the impact is real, and instances of burnout, anxiety disorders and stress-related diseases are on the rise . . .

   Let's just enjoy. . .

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Wesleyan Youth Gamelan Ensemble classes begin

Come for the first class—if your child likes it, sign them up! No prior musical experience necessary.

* Youth Gamelan is open to all children ages 7 to 17. The Spring 2020 session begins on Saturday, January 18 at 10-11am, with weekly rehearsals.

* Homeschool Gamelan is for those homeschooling and also ages 7 to 17. The Spring 2020 session begins on Friday, January 17 at 1-2pm, with weekly rehearsals.

Rehearsals are held at the World Music Hall, on Wyllys Avenue, at Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT. Spring classes conclude with a performance with the Wesleyan Gamelan Ensemble on Thursday, April 30 at 7pm.

The Youth Gamelan Ensemble at Wesleyan is directed by Joseph Getter. The ensemble was founded in 2002 by Artist in Residence I.M. Harjito. Students learn traditional music from Java, Indonesia on Wesleyan's gamelan instruments. Wesleyan owns one of the finest sets of gamelan instruments in the world, a set from Yogyakarta of mostly gong and metallophone instruments made of bronze. 

Only $45 for a semester of classes plus a final performance. For more info:

Register by phone at 860-685-3355 or online:

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Second Annual Middletown Teen Talent Search January 25!

2019 Teen Talent Search finalists. Photo by Kate Pulino.

Oddfellows Playhouse is hosting the second annual Middletown Teen Talent Search on Saturday, January 25. The event is open to local performers ages 12 – 19, and there will be cash prizes of $300 - $100 for the top five acts. The final round will be held at 7 pm on Saturday, January 25 at Oddfellows Playhouse in Middletown, is open to the public, and will be hosted by Connecticut State Troubadour Nekita Waller.
Anyone ages 12 – 19 from Middletown or surrounding towns is welcome to compete in the Teen Talent Search. The registration deadline is January 23, and there is a $5 per person registration fee. Qualifying rounds will be held between 1 – 5 pm on January 25, and the top twelve acts will compete for cash prizes in a public performance at 7 pm. All performance forms are welcome – music, dance, theater, circus, magic, comedy, etc. Professional sound and lighting will be provided for all performers.
Tickets to the 7 pm Finalist Showcase are $10 for adults and $5 for kids. Anyone performing in the qualifying rounds who is not invited to perform in the evening will be given a free ticket to the 7 pm Finalist Showcase. All finalists will receive two complimentary tickets to be used for family and friends.
Nekita Waller, a Middletown resident, is a singer and songwriter who started her 3 year term as State Troubadour in 2018. She will be returning to host the Talent Search for the second year, and will entertain the audience after the final act while the judges convene to make their decisions.
Snow date for the event is Sunday, January 26.
Oddfellows Playhouse Youth Theater, founded in 1975, is Connecticut’s oldest and largest theater program for young people. The Playhouse has always been committed to making high-quality performing arts experiences available to all local young people, regardless of ability to pay, believing that access to the arts as a young person helps develop smart, creative and generous adults.
To register for the Talent Search, or for more information, call (860) 347-6143, email, or go to You will find the full Talent Search guidelines on the website.

Photo by Rhoze Faraci.

Meet Your Greens Networking - This Thursday January 16

The Rockfall Foundation’s January Meet Your Greens networking meet-up will be this Thursday, January 16 at Lan Chi’s Restaurant, Middletown. Join us for drinks, food, and conversation 5:30 to 7:30 pm. Guest speaker Sami Jo Jensen will be talking about how to green your body care routine.

We all use facial and body care products - but when is the last time you read the ingredient labels? Our skin absorbs 60% of what we put on it, which means what we put on our bodies is just as important as what we put into them. Learn how to identify toxic chemicals in your skincare products and how to find cleaner, greener alternatives that are better for your body and for the environment.

Sami Jo Jensen is an herbalist and founder of florapothecarie, a line of handcrafted 100% natural & vegan skincare. She’s been ditching toxins and making botanically-infused beauty products for 10 years.

Admission is free. Guests pay for their own food and drink.  Please join us!

Meet Your Greens: Middletown Green Drinks is a monthly event providing networking opportunities for anyone who is interested in making connections and exchanging news about emerging environmental issues to help keep Lower Connecticut River Valley communities green. An official location of Green Drinks International, this informal monthly gathering of people drawn from the community, nonprofit groups and the business world offers time to brainstorm ideas and plant seeds for collaboration. All are welcome and there is no admission fee, unless otherwise noted. For more information, please visit The Rockfall Foundation’s website.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Scholarship Available

Scholarship Opportunity for Student Environmental Leaders
The Rockfall Foundation Now Accepting Applications

Do you know a high school junior or senior who has demonstrated leadership in an activity that benefits the environment?
Applications are now being accepted for the Virginia R. Rollefson Environmental Leadership Scholarship, a $1,000 award to recognize leadership and initiative by a high school junior or senior residing in the lower Connecticut River Valley for participation in a program, project, or activity that benefits preservation, conservation, restoration or environmental education. The scholarship is presented by The Rockfall Foundation and applications must be submitted by March 12. The scholarship is for qualified tuition, books, room and board, or supplies.  Eligible students must reside in Chester, Clinton, Cromwell, Deep River, Durham, East Haddam, East Hampton, Essex, Haddam, Killingworth, Lyme, Middlefield, Middletown, Old Lyme, Old Saybrook, Portland, or Westbrook. The scholarship is named in honor of former Executive Director of The Rockfall Foundation, Virginia R. “Ginny” Rollefson, who retired in 2010 after 24 years with the Foundation. The award honors her long service to the Foundation, her enthusiasm, and her belief that we all benefit when young people are actively engaged in making their communities a better place to live. For a copy of the application and more information, visit or call 860-347-0340.
Founded in 1935 by Middletown philanthropist Clarence S. Wadsworth, The Rockfall Foundation is one of Connecticut’s oldest environmental organizations. The Foundation supports environmental education, conservation and planning initiatives in the Lower Connecticut River Valley through public programs and grants.  In addition, The Rockfall Foundation operates the historic deKoven House Community Center that offers meeting and event room rentals and office space for non-profit organizations. For additional information about the Virginia R. Rollefson Environmental Leadership Scholarship or The Rockfall Foundation, please visit or call 860-347-0340.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Lamentation Mountain Property To Be Protected

From the offices of Senators Daugherty and Lesser.

Mary Daugherty Abrams and Matt Lesser, who represent our city in the State Senate, today cheered the announcement by Governor Ned Lamont that $9.1 million in state grants will be released for the purchase and protection of 24 parcels of land statewide through the Open Space and Watershed Land Acquisition Grant Program, including more than $60,000 in funding for the local acquisition of 47 acres of land in Middletown.

“Open space preserves important natural resources and provides our communities with beautiful local recreational resources,” said Sen. Abrams. “I am so happy that nearly 50 acres of land in Middletown will become open space, further adding to our incredible forests and preserving local wildlife, most prominently birds of prey. I would like to thank Governor Lamont for his support of environmental protection and the Berlin Land Trust for its efforts in protecting this property.”

“I was proud to work with the Berlin Land Trust in support this proposal over a number of months,” said Sen. Lesser. “Protecting this vital landscape for future generations is a major win for Middletown and the state of Connecticut.”

The project sponsor Berlin Land Trust, Inc. will receive a $63,450 grant to assist with the Lamentation Mountain: Tighe-Baldyga Property Acquisition, located at the north end of Lamentation Mountain and part of the Metacomet Ridge. The property is surrounded by 450 acres of protected land and 190 acres of undeveloped land and is part of the 330-acre watershed of the Spruce Brook tributary. It contains 5 critical habitats, with an abundance of sugar maple, hop hornbeam, red cedar, chestnut oak, hickory and slippery elm. High crests and ridgelines, create suitable habitat for hawks and owls. It can be accessed from Lamentation Drive in Berlin through the Mattabesset Trail or from Stantack Road.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Holiday Party & Silent Auction January 25th

Join The Rockfall Foundation on January 25th to celebrate the holidays and ring in the New Year with friends in the environmental community. From 2 to 4:30pm at the deKoven House Community Center, we’ll be serving a variety of snacks, mulled wine, cider and more. We’ll also have a silent auction. All funds raised directly support Rockfall’s mission of environmental education and conservation in the lower Connecticut River Valley. 

Auction items so far include:
Kidcity Children’s Museum admission for 4 adults or children
Off the Hook mobile device repair gift card
Starr Mill Yoga 10-class gift card
Handmade jewelry
Handmade bird seed wreaths
Perk on Main gift card
Bill’s Seafood gift card
Cinder + Salt sustainability pack with canvas tote bag, stainless steel straws, straw brush, beeswax wraps, organic cotton cap, reusable cheese storage bags, and tea towel
Bird feeder and bird seed from Wild Birds Unlimited
and more on the way!

For full details and RSVP go to
Please join us!

Monday, January 6, 2020

The Road to Romeo and Juliet starts tonight!

This Spring, Oddfellows Playhouse Teen Repertory Company will be staging a landmark production of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Auditions will be in March, and the show will run for two weekends in May (14 - 23). Auditions are open to anyone ages 14 - 20.

But the time to start getting ready is RIGHT NOW! Tonight is the first of six classes for teenagers offering rigorous training for Shakespeare performers, including voice, text analysis, movement, stage combat and acting. The Compleate Shakespearean will be taught by ARTFARM Artistic Director and noted Shakespeare performer, director and teacher Marcella Trowbridge (shown above in ARTFARM's 2017 production of Hamlet. Photo by Bill De Kine.) plus guest artists. This will be serious performance training designed to prepare you to audition for and perform in Romeo and Juliet.

The first class is tonight. Classes will run Mondays, 6:30 - 8:30 pm, January 6 - February 10 at Oddfellows Playhouse, 128 Washington Street, Middletown. Tuition for the 6 week course is just $100, and anyone who completes the course will receive a $75 credit towards there tuition for Romeo and Juliet. Financial Aid and work-study are available for families who cannot afford the tuition.

Also starting this week at Oddfellows is a seven week class in Writing Plays, taught by nationally-produced playwright  (and former Oddfellows Artistic Director) Kristen Palmer. The class meets Thursdays, 6:30 - 8:30 pm, and will culminate in a New Plays Festival on Saturday, February 22.

To register for either class, or for more info, go to, email, or call (860) 347-6143.
Photo below by Bill De Kine of Teen Rep Company's fall production of Chekhov's The Seagull.

The Buttonwood Tree Hosts Eclectic Schedule for January

"For such a small space you sure have a lot of events!" 
This was recently heard at The Buttonwood Tree, and anyone who checks their schedule can see its truth.

While every Friday and Saturday night is filled with music,  First Fridays features a thriving Storytelling night, fashioned after the MOTH style, and often featuring acclaimed teller, Matt Dicks and often they feature programs to enlighten, educate and empower. Examples of the latter include Reiki classes and Shares, a writing workshop and many other classes and workshops.

Regular programs throughout the month include a widely popular Monday Night Open Mic, the oldest (continually running) Open Mic on First Thursdays, a Youth Open Mic, Drum circle, Sound Healings, Laughter Yoga and the very important workshop for Self-Awareness, Aligned With Source on Saturdays (currently on hiatus as facilitator, Annaita Gandhy spends a month in India.), along with Art exhibits and Receptions and various other

Starting January 18th, they are proud to host an 8 week Writing Workshop. Registration is online or by phone.  Click on the titles to make reservations, or find out more. Buttonwood members are entitled to a reduced rate for this and many other programs.

This weekend they'll feature a Gypsy Jazz concert with a returning world-traveling trio and the debut of Sharkey and The Sparks, a father-son duo featuring the amazing Slambovian Circus of Dreams guitarist, Sharkey McEwen. All ages are welcome at Buttonwood shows, and a fee of $5 is set for this special show to encourage youngsters on Saturday night.

DJANGO"S RESERVE   Jan 10, 8 pm

 SHARKEY And The SPARKS   Jan 11, 8 pm

Riding a wave of inspiration, Sharkey stepped out and began performing solo in the spring of 2016. This provided him more space to stretch out musically and to share his pure and soulful singing voice with us all. Around the same time, Sharkey and Ben began playing music together for fun. But once Sharkey started inviting his talented young protégé to join him on stage and perform in public, the “sparks” began to fly.

REIKI SHARE      Jan. 12  (2-4pm)  

ALL The WRITE WAYS, Writing Workshop  Jan 18-March 14   (1-2:30pm)

ANDREW WILCOX TRIO  Piano Jazz group  Jan 24 (8-10pm   $10.)

JOE BELMONT EXPERIENCE   Jan 25, (8 pm  $15.)

Joe Belmont: electric, acoustic, eclectic guitar, vocals
Eliezer Martinez: drums
Rudi Weeks : bass

Joe Belmont Experience is comprised of accomplished veterans of the Northeast music scene playing a cohesive blend of divergent elements of jazz, original songs and compositions, funk, classic songs, Chicago blues, and jamming. 

 Featuring former CT State Troubadour, Kate Callahan 

Reservations are suggested for all weekend shows!!
For a complete listing of Buttonwood events, see their website at They're also no Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.  Located at 605 Main Street, Middletown, (860) 347-4957. Free, ample parking behind It's Only Natural market, next door.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

New Decade, New You — Start at MxCC

2020 is not just a new year but also a new decade! Begin a new YOU at Middlesex Community College. Spring 2020 classes begin January 22. Get started now!

Choose from more than 70 degree and certificate programs to advance your education and career. Visit to learn about upcoming open registration dates in Middletown or at MxCC@Platt in Meriden.

Middletown (100 Training Hill Road): 
January 11 (Super Saturday Enroll in a Day), 9 a.m.–2 p.m.
January 13 (Monday), 9 a.m.–7 p.m.
January 16 (Thursday), 9 a.m.–7 p.m.
January 21 (Tuesday), 10 a.m.–7 p.m. 
January 22–23, ​9 a.m.–7 p.m. 
January 24 (Friday), 9 a.m.–4 p.m. 
MxCC@Platt in Meriden (220 Coe Avenue):
January 14 (Tuesday), 3–7 p.m.

Accepted Students Day
January 8 (Wednesday), Middletown, ​1–5 p.m.​

Questions? Please call Enrollment Services at 860-343-5719.

Build Your Own Utility: An Idea whose time has come?

From Washington Post, Jan 1, 2020.

BLUE LAKE, Calif. — After months of wildfires, an essential question in a warming, windy California is this: How does the state keep the lights on? A tiny Native American tribe, settled here in the Mad River Valley, has an answer.

Build your own utility.

The Blue Lake Rancheria tribe has constructed a microgrid on its 100-acre reservation, a complex of solar panels, storage batteries and distribution lines that operates as part of the broader utility network or completely independent of it. It is a state-of-the-art system — and an indicator of what might be in California’s future.

Article continues at