Two Middlesex County businesses to be lauded at Celebrate Connecticut

November 27, 2016

By: Larry McHugh

November comes to an end this week in Middlesex County, and the countdown to the holidays is on.

There are still a busy few weeks ahead however, filled with events and activities throughout our region.

This Wednesday evening, Jeff Pugliese and I will attend the Celebrate Connecticut Awards put on by the Connecticut Economic Resource Center (CERC) at the Bushnell in Hartford. This event honors one company, and one initiative in each region of the state, and celebrates their contributions to economic and community development. The Middlesex awardees for 2016 are Whelen Engineering and Essex Steam Train and River Boat’s North Pole Express. Whelen Engineering designs and manufactures high-quality audio and visual warning equipment for Automotive, Aviation, and Mass Notification industries worldwide. Founded in 1952, Whelen has become a leading provider of innovative sirens, warning lights, white illumination lighting, and controllers. Whelen has the largest staff of design engineers in the United States and the biggest field service force in the industry. With two state-of-the-art facilities in Chester, Connecticut, and Charlestown, New Hampshire, Whelen products are proudly designed, manufactured, and assembled in the U.S.A. Owned and operated by the Valley Railroad Company, the Essex Steam Train & Riverboat is a unique historic attraction in the Connecticut River Valley Area. The Essex Steam Train & Riverboat offers various excursions and family themed events throughout the year including the North Pole Express. The North Pole Express is a locomotive-powered sleigh that takes visitors on a magical nighttime journey to the North Pole. Every coach becomes a stage for a live, musical performance of The Night Before Christmas. Families are welcome to come and celebrate the spirit of the season with Santa and Mrs. Claus, participate in sing-a-longs, enjoy delicious hot chocolate and sugar cookies, and receive a small gift from Santa. We look forward to honoring our partners on Wednesday night in Hartford, and continue to appreciate their strong commitment to our region and to our state.

The 31st Annual Holiday on Main Street, presented by Pratt & Whitney, is off to a fast start after a very successful opening night last Friday, and a busy follow up on Saturday. This coming Saturday, Dec. 3, the fun continues with Disabled American Veterans Middletown Chapter 7 Day. Planned events and activities include: free pictures and donuts with Santa at Vinnie’s Jump and Jive, the Fun Train which will offer free rides on the sidewalk around downtown, and free rides for children and adults on two mechanical animals, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and Sno-Cat, The Siberian Snow Tiger. Families will also have the opportunity to meet and greet with Santa and take free horse & wagon rides. At 11:30 a.m., Holiday Story Time, featuring Middletown Police Chief Bill McKenna, will take place at Vinnie’s Jump & Jive and Junie B. Jones will be on hand for a book signing. Volunteers from DAV Middletown Chapter 7 will staff the Popcorn & Hot Pretzels stand in front of the chamber building, and holiday music played by Harvest Woods Audio will entertain the large crowd that we expect. Holiday on Main Street continues on Saturday, Dec. 10, and Saturday, Dec. 17.  Parking for Holiday on Main Street is free in City parking lots. Holiday on Main Street is an institution in Middletown and in Middlesex County, and we are very proud of it. I want to again thank Pratt & Whitney for their great support, the City of Middletown, and in particular, the leadership of Mayor Dan Drew and the Common Council, our longtime event Chairman Al Santostefano, his Vice Chairman Rich Greco, and the entire Holiday on Main Street Committee for their terrific support of this longtime event. For all of the details on events and activities, please visit www.holidayonmain.com.

This week also features meetings of the chamber’s Central Business Bureau on Thursday at the chamber in Middletown, and the Chester, Deep River and Essex Division on Friday at Aaron Manor in Chester. The CBB meeting will feature town updates from Mayor Dan Drew and a number of city department directors, and the Down County Division meeting on Friday will feature state and local updates and a presentation by Judge Barbara M. Quinn who is Chief Court Administrator for the Connecticut Judicial Branch. Our divisions continue to play a vital role in the chamber’s infrastructure.

The main chamber event coming up in December is our annual Governor’s Breakfast Meeting which is scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 14 at the Radisson Hotel in Cromwell. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, now approaching his seventh year in office, has appeared at our December Member Breakfast Meeting in every year of his administration, as have all of our sitting governors, going back to the administration of Governor William A. O’Neill in the 1980’s. We appreciate the strong support of Eversource who not only sponsors this breakfast meeting on an annual basis, but supports a number of other chamber programs and initiatives. We look forward to welcoming Gov. Malloy and a number of other key state officials as part of a sold out crowd of chamber members.

Looking ahead to January, the chamber’s first Business After Work networking reception of the new year will be held on Wednesday, Jan. 11 at Powder Ridge Mountain Park and Resort in Middlefield. In addition to the best networking around, this event will feature free beer, wine, non-alcoholic drinks, and a great spread of food courtesy of Sean Hayes and his team. I thank Sean not only for hosting this event for our chamber, but for his commitment to this project which is creating jobs and additional tourism buzz for our region.

Also planned for the month of January is the second annual "Taste of Middlesex County" which is brought to you by Comcast Business Class. Taste of Middlesex County is scheduled for January 16-22. The goal of this initiative is to highlight the numerous and diverse dining experiences within the greater Middlesex region. From the beautiful shores of Westbrook to the home of the Travelers Championship in Cromwell, there is something for everyone. Traditionally, restaurants offer a pre-fixed menu to give diners the opportunity to experience the area’s fine dining landscape without breaking the bank. This will be a fixed price 3-course meal for $20.17 (does not include beverages, tax or gratuity). I want to thank Comcast Business Class for its strong support of Taste of Middlesex County, and Johanna Bond from the chamber team who has put in a lot of time and effort on coordination and logistics. Save your appetite for the week of January 16-22, and please visit one or more of our many wonderful participating restaurants. More info to come!

I was happy that Jeff Pugliese represented the chamber at an event on Friday that celebrated Ray of Life Farm in East Haddam and its commitment to healing through animals. Kids and veterans especially benefit from the services provided by the amazing animals and the dedicated members of the Ray of Light team. Tamera Jackson of Jackson Chevrolet donated a pickup truck to Ray of Light which will help with hauling and other activities at the farm. The event on Friday, which also included U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, honored TJ’s support of the farm and its important initiatives. TJ is a fine corporate citizen and I am proud that she is a member of our Executive Committee and a strong member of our chamber.

I want to close this week’s column by thanking Tony Scacca for hosting a very nice reception at First and Last Tavern on Sunday that celebrated Tony’s recent purchase of the business and the significant remodeling work that was done at the restaurant. Everyone who attended enjoy the great spread of food, fine service and a terrific atmosphere. I look forward to the official Grand Re-Opening for First and Last which is scheduled for Thursday, Dec. 8 at the restaurant. All of us look forward to working with Tony and appreciate his commitment to our city and to the Middlesex business community.

2016 is winding down, but the chamber continues to be on the move.

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