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Sunday, January 16, 2011

AFC Division Playoff Provides Excuse for Feasting with Friends

AFC Division Playoff Provides Excuse for Feasting with Friends:
Jets take win leaving Pats fans humbled
(Posted to 1/16)
By Mike Lauterborn
© 2011. All Rights Reserved.

The event had a Super Bowl feel to it and, as such, needed to be properly celebrated.

The match-up late Sunday afternoon was between the New York Jets and the New England Patriots in the AFC Division Playoff, pitting QB Mark Sanchez against QB Tom Brady.

A devoted Jets fan, my Fairfield friend Ken Kubel would normally host such an event but he had done the honors for the previous game, the Wild Card Playoff between the Jets and Baltimore Colts. So, it fell to our mutual friend Brian Pisanelli, a Patriots fan, to open his doors at his Shelton home and for us Fairfielders to make the trek up.

I had already seen the season fortunes of my own team, the New York Giants, dashed, so had thrown my weight behind the Jets, even dressing in the team’s colors. Mutual Fairfield friend Paul Mucha had adopted the same approach and, really, was more in it for the beer, toting a keg of homemade Alaskan Smoked Porter to the festivities.

Mucha’s contribution was a tasty accompaniment to the fare Pisanelli’s wife Theresa, a Jets fan, had prepared, literally enough food to feed a battalion. Stacked and on deck in her kitchen, it included chicken fries, chili, jalapeno poppers, chicken fingers, mozzarella sticks, ribs, pigs in a blanket, mac and cheese and assorted chips.

The only other critical room in the ranch-style house was the basement where the game viewing would take place. It had all the features a sports fan could desire: an 18-foot long working bar, pool table, air hockey, dart board, CD jukebox, slot machine, fireplace and, of course, a big screen TV.

As Theresa and Kubel’s wife Ann enjoyed chocotinis, we men tackled the brew and voiced predictions for the game’s outcome.

“I think the Patriots are a slightly better team, but in football, anything can happen,” said Kubel. “I’ve been a Jets fan since the early 80s, during the New York Sack Exchange era, when the Jets made it to the playoffs but not the Super Bowl. This could be our shot.”

Weighing in with a contrasting forecast, Pisanelli said, “I predict the Patriots will win by 23. Our offense is explosive. Tom Brady is unstoppable.”

As the Patriots won the coin toss and elected to kick, several more guys joined the gathering, including Craig Granello, a Steelers fan who was backing the Jets, Brian Fitzgerald, a Pats fan, and Fairfielder Will Silbert, a Jets fan. In all, with kids and significant others in tow, we were a crowd of about 20.

Just over eight minutes into the game, a huge surprise came on a Patriots drive – a Brady pass was intercepted, the first one against him in 340 prior attempts. Unfortunately, New York didn’t capitalize on it and missed a resulting field goal try. Later in the quarter, New England made a similar FG to put the first score on the board and take the lead, 3-0.

“I think this is going to be close,” said Mucha, assessing the game at the close of the 1st. “If the Jets don’t make any more mistakes, like the missed field goal, they’ve got a shot.”

In the 2nd quarter, the Jets answered big with, first, a 37-yard pass completion, then TD run-in by Ladainian Tomlinson to put NY on top 7-3.

“I’m not worried,” said Pisanelli. “It’s still early. Our offense will definitely step up and rise to the occasion.”

The Pats fan was soon eating his words and holding his head as Sanchez connected with Braden Edwards at the close of the 2nd to push the score to 14-3 Jets. NY fans in our group erupted with a chant of “J-E-T-S!”

Silbert weighed in with a halftime perspective. “I think the Jets are doing a great job frustrating the Patriots and pushing penalties. The Brady interception and sacks have been great, too. I really believe the Jets can pull this off.”

The Jets remained feisty in the 3rd, continuing to get to and sack Brady. The angst clearly registered on the QB’s face, but didn’t keep him from tossing a TD pass and leading a 2-point conversion with seconds left in the quarter. This put the Pats within a field goal of NY, trailing 14-11.

The Jets refused to be overtaken and came out swinging again in the 4th with Sanchez connecting to Santonio Holmes for another run-in, pushing the score to 21-11, NY.

“It’s all over now guys,” defended Pisanelli. “All you did was piss ‘em off,” he added, donning his Patriots helmet for the duration of the game.

Theresa took advantage of the moment to step in front of the crowd to rub it in, saying, “Just in case you don’t know the score, it’s 21-11 Jets. Brian, you stink!”

With less than two minutes of game time remaining, the Pats registered a field goal then tried an onside kick, but it ended up in the Jets’ hands and materialized into another New York TD. New England scored once more but couldn’t top the mighty Jets. The final score: 28-21, New York.

“Even though we have one more game left, I think we’re going to the Super Bowl!”, said Kubel’s 11-year-old son Matthew as Theresa good-naturedly tossed her husband’s Patriots helmet out into a backyard snow bank and his jersey to the floor.  

Kennedy Ctr. Annual Fundraiser Promises Roaring Good Time

Kennedy Ctr. Annual Fundraiser Promises Roaring Good Time:
Event founded 20 yrs. ago by Fairfielder Christine Donahue
(Posted to 1/16)
By Mike Lauterborn
© 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Fairfield, CT – What began as a modest event two decades ago that raised about $4,000 has evolved into a leading regional occasion that has to date raised nearly $1 million. And while the event site and organization is Trumbull-based, the orchestration in large part is steered from Fairfield.

On January 29, beginning at 6:30 p.m., The Kennedy Center will hold its Annual Cabaret and Auction fundraising event at the Trumbull Marriott, Hawley Lane, Trumbull. As it has been for the last 20 years, this year’s event is being directed by Fairfielder Christine Donahue Brown. Themed around the “Roaring 20s”, the evening will offer talented Connecticut actors and actresses singing and dancing to popular show tunes, hors d’ouevres, a full-course dinner and a live and silent auction. Attendees are encouraged to wear something reminiscent of the era, such as a flapper dress or gangster suit, to play off the theme.

Brown, 41, founded the event at age 21 as a law student at Quinnipiac University. “I have a brother with Down Syndrome, who was 11 at the time,” she said. “He was a client of The Kennedy Center. I approached the center and told them I had an idea for a fundraiser. They were a little skeptical at first because of my age, but proved to be extremely supportive and encouraging.”

Now a partner at Fairfield law firm Donahue & Brown, LLC, Brown said the initial event was modest but that it has grown by leaps and bounds in both attendance and support. “Our first year, we only had about 120 guests, a small committee of eight and raised $4,000. Now, 20 years later, we’ve raised just shy of $1 million, have a committee of over 45 individuals and the event is a sold-out occasion, attracting about 425 attendees each year.”

As the event has grown in scope, so too has the Kennedy Center’s clientele – children and young adults with physical and mental disabilities. “When I first collaborated with them, they serviced about 400 people. Now they serve over 1,800,” said Brown.

The non-profit has helped its clients live and work in the community and has established supported residences dedicated to them. In Fairfield, the group home is Broadhurst Manor at 1038 Old Post Road. “The greatest thing the Center does is provide job coaches to help clients get and maintain jobs so they can eventually work independently,” added Brown.

The majority of people on the event committee were personally recruited by Brown and are either entertainers at the event, parents of children served by the Kennedy Center or administrative supporters. The committee includes four women from Fairfield: Debra Jones, Sondra Kennedy, Carol Karpovich and Ruth Ridgeway.

Brown is indebted to her committee and particularly to Ridgeway. “Ruth has been a contributor to the event for the last 10 years donating countless dollars and hundreds of hours of time in creating the event atmosphere through her company, Ruth Ridgeway Design.”

The Center continues to play a role in Brown’s brother’s life. “He is still served by the organization. They helped him acquire a position at Fairfield University as well as enroll in college-level classes where he studies art and photography.”

Martin D. Schwartz, President and CEO of The Kennedy Center, hopes this year’s event will set a new milestone. “We want to raise over $100,000 to bring us to the $1 million level. We encourage the community to show its support.”

For fundraiser tickets, call Debra Kane at The Kennedy Center, 203-365-8522, ext. 216.

Pequot Library Offers Volumes of Entertainment

Pequot Library Offers Volumes of Entertainment:
Books, LPs and band draw crowds to annual mid-winter sale
(Posted to 1/15)
By Mike Lauterborn
© 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Southport, CT – They had books in their bags, a tune in their heads and a spring in their step as they merrily browsed a local book sale event that has become an area institution for more than a decade.

Saturday marked the opening day of Pequot Library’s 2011 Mid-Winter Book Sale. The popular event will continue Sunday noon-5 p.m. and Monday 9 a.m.-5 p.m., and conclude Tuesday 9 a.m.-noon. Mostly fiction (hardcover and paperback) is offered but also children’s books and videos, LPs, vintage paperbacks, collector comic books, matted prints, audio books and videos. Admission is free and all proceeds benefit the library.

“We’ve been doing this about 15 years,” said Dan Snydacker, the library’s executive director. “It started as a way to empty out our storage area, but then became an event unto itself. And because it’s held mid-winter, it tends to be smaller and quieter than our summer book sale, and people like that flavor and intimacy.”

Enhancing the atmosphere of the sale this year is live blues music performed by Mark Naftalin and Friends, at 1 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday. Naftalin is a nationally known blues piano player who performed with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. Radio station WPKN 89.5FM) was onsite at the library providing a live on-air feed of Naftalin’s performance.

“The addition of the live music really adds a nice component,” said Snydacker. “Six years ago, Mark alone volunteered to play piano. Gradually, he has been joined by other musicians and friends and this has become an important and fun part of the event. And because the music is broadcast on WPKN, the event is essentially shared with people in a wide area along the East coast.”

Snydacker added that the inclusion of LPs in the sale has been a plus. “One of our hardest working volunteers, Paige Gillies, is coordinating our LP section. There are lots of great titles and they’re priced right. You may even find a great treasure as did a visitor this morning who found a very rare Beatles album.”

Snydacker said the sale is an important fundraiser for the library and, just from a morning money count, they were way ahead of last year’s revenue. Equally important though was the power of the sale to magnetize people. “There’s a social aspect wherein people really come together over books.”

Book browsers combed through titles, happy to be attending and to find key selections. “I wait for the book sale and buy fiction and history,” said Southporter Peg North. “I read book reviews all the time and count on their guidance. I look for prize winners, too, like The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx, which I really look forward to reading.”

Stamford resident Dee Ronaghan searched titles with a strategic approach. “I keep a small catalog of books that I’ve read or want so that I don’t double purchase,” she said. “It’s a system that seems to work for me. I tend to buy fiction and try to stick to the list, but I always see other interesting titles.”

Phyllis Heine came all the way from Scarsdale, NY for the sale. “We usually come to the summer sale but had time this weekend to attend the mid-winter event. You never know what you’re going to find. Sometimes it’s something you’ve been seeking for a long time. We always go to Mystery first, then Fiction Classics and Travel. The band was an unexpected treat… really a pleasure.”

New Canaan resident John Zannini, who was drawn to the sale by the live WPKN broadcast, was having a ball sifting through boxes of LPs. “I’m finding some amazing records – my whole personal history with music is here.”

Library volunteer Madlyn Karpinski was just glad to be out of The Dungeon, the basement space where she and a team of some 25 other volunteers sort and price the books, preparing them over a week’s time for the sale. She said, “While it’s a lot of work, it’s very rewarding to do and this is such a fun social event.”