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Year In Review: The Events And People That Helped Make 2017 Another Stellar Year In Newtown

Published: December 31, 2017

This year marked a time of surprises, hard work, and awards, as well as some bittersweet endings and new beginnings for Newtown.

In 2017, Logan Phillips was born 3½ weeks earlier than expected, meaning a happy start to the year for Sabrina and Russell Phillips, when they learned their firstborn was named Newtown’s First Baby 2017.

After Beth Caldwell announced that 2016 would be her last year serving as president of the Labor Day Parade Committee, committee members began issuing a call for new members in March. By May, the committee was able to announce a new leader — longtime resident and business owner Nick Kopcik — and even a parade theme and grand marshal. Lee Paulsen, president of FAITH Food Pantry, was tapped for the honorary role, and the town was invited to celebrate the theme of “A Labor of Love” for September’s parade.

For the fifth year, moviegoers were able to enjoy a free movie night at Edmond Town Hall each month. Ingersoll Auto of Danbury, owned by Newtown resident Todd Ingersoll, continued the series, which was launched in January 2013. The auto dealership also sponsored a special sensory friendly screening of Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie in July.

Say “Al from UPS,” and the majority of this town’s residents and businesspeople will know that you are talking about the man with the short dark hair, equally dark eyes, brisk walking pace, and an easy smile who has been whistling while driving the familiar big brown trucks for years. In the spring, Al Sequeira was inducted into the UPS Circle of Honor, an exclusive group that recognizes UPS drivers who have not had an avoidable accident in 25 years or longer. Mr Sequeira became one of only 9,349 UPS drivers to be so recognized around the world (as of December 31, 2016).

Vintage jazz proved to be alive and well this year thanks to the dapper gents Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks, who perform authentic, energetic, Prohibition-era music for crowds in the New York area.

In February, Newtown resident Amber Edwards and Bethel resident Dave Davidson discussed their project with The Newtown Bee, the documentary Vince Giordano — There’s a Future in the Past, that they directed and produced. The two have been partners of Hudson West Productions for nearly 30 years, and their not-for-profit production company takes on projects pertaining to preserving art, history, and education. Ms Edwards and Ms Davidson went on the road with Mr Giordano and his band members to start filming in 2012.

“We had no idea that during the period we were following him that it would be such a dramatic time for him — a lot of ups and downs,” said Ms Edwards. Mr Davidson agreed, noting that Mr Giordano proved time and time again to be resilient no matter what was thrown his way.

The work of another creative duo, Laureen and Maureen Trotto, was recognized this year.

The sisters own the design firm Thin Air LLC in Newtown and were honored at the Women In Toys’ 13th Annual Wonder Women Awards Gala in New York City with the prestigious Emeritus Award, on February 19. Both were recognized for being major pioneers for women in the toy industry. The sisters and their team do everything from designing logos, graphics, and packaging to creating innovative concepts like steel products and toy inventions.

In addition to receiving the award, the Trotto sisters’ work will now be displayed at The Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, N.Y., for future generations to see.

In late August/early September, Hurricane Harvey tore through Texas and left life-changing damage in its wake. Newtown’s very own Lutheran Church Charities’ K-9 Comfort Dog Maggie, of Christ the King Lutheran Church, was one 15 LCC dogs across the nation to deploy to Texas shortly after the hurricane. She was accompanied by two of her handlers, Lori Flandreau and Cathy Reiss, and Christ the King Lutheran Church Pastor Rob Morris, who all pitched in to help make a positive difference in the lives of residents in the Lone Star State.

The 6th Annual Newtown Arts Festival weekend, which ran September 15-17, included performances, crafts, artisans, and craftspeople selling their works, and an evening of music, all centered in the soccer fields at Fairfield Hills. The weekend kicked off with former Newtown resident and singer Sawyer Fredericks headlining on the evening of September 15, with One Track Mind and Tales of Joy performing opening sets.

In 2017, a 40-year chamber music tradition ended when Brentano String Quartet and Daedalus Quartet performed the final concert sponsored by Newtown Friends of Music (NFOM) the afternoon of Sunday, October 15. Since 1978, NFOM had presented more than 200 live, world-class classical music ensembles on the stage of Edmond Town Hall.

This year also saw the end of an era for Kat Holick, who did her final shifts directing traffic at local schools on September 29. “Newtown’s Smiling Traffic Agent” had made the difficult decision a few months earlier that it was time to hang up her safety vest and hat, and go back to work with her husband. Ms Holick had been directing traffic into and out of Newtown High School (mornings and afternoons), Hawley School (mornings), and St Rose of Lima School (afternoons) for four years.

Later in the year, with perfect weather overhead, Newtown Parks & Recreation held its first Fall Carnival, October 20 to 22, at Fairfield Hills. Roughly 3,000 to 4,500 people attended the event, according to ticket sales, although many attended just to visit food trucks, which did not require the purchase of entry tickets. Funds raised benefited the Parks Gift Fund. Parks & Rec Assistant Director of Recreation RoseAnn Reggiano told The Newtown Bee that people she spoke to during the carnival were already asking about plans to hold a carnival again in 2018. It was the second successful festival for Parks & Rec, which had hosted a Food Truck Festival in June, in conjunction with the Chamber of Commerce and NYA Sports & Fitness Center. Food fanatics of all ages piled into Fairfield Hills for the deep-fried, greasy, and downright cholesterol-raising but, yes, tastebud-tingling event, despite downpours throughout the afternoon.

The Newtown Youth & Family Services Holiday Festival lent a cheerful air to the first Sunday in December, as it does each year. Various other organizations made the entire weekend a joyful one, with 2017 winding down to its final days.

With that, 2017 comes to a close and welcomes all to look forward to what the next year will bring.

Newtown Bee Associate Editor Shannon Hicks contributed to this story.

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