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Friday, January 21, 2011

Fairfield Snowed In… Again

Fairfield Snowed In… Again:
Locals surprised about school closure; getting used to snow
(Posted to 1/21)
By Mike Lauterborn
© 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Fairfield, CT – The automatic phone message had become all too familiar: “All public and parochial schools in the Town of Fairfield are closed.” The notice had been spurred by the latest snowstorm, which arrived overnight and had deposited about five inches by the time it ceased around 8 a.m. Friday.

Patch stepped out to speak to locals in the Beach Area, who were busy shoveling or trying to make their way out. They expressed surprise about the school closure – the district’s third official snow day – and had mixed emotions about the snowy winter we’ve been experiencing.

“I think we’re in the every-five-or-six-day weather pattern,” said Art McAdams, out for a morning walk. “Once it’s established, it seems it’s pretty regular. I’m not sick of it. It breaks things up. It’s a real winter, though I like warm winters in between, too.”

Jim Kreitler, who was shoveling out the end of his driveway, said, “I love this, like an old New England winter that I remember from thirty years ago. I love snow. I look out the window at night at it and get excited, though it does make you appreciate the summer. I’ve just got to find something for the kids to do.”

Nancy Murphy was out walking her Welsh terrier Gibby, who was excitedly scurrying about and burrowing his nose in the snow. The mother of four said, “I’m surprised today was called as a snow day. It seems like the kids know in advance and are counting on it, and it affects their school work. They stay up late. I don’t think these are hazardous conditions. It’s nice powder snow. I have a doctor’s appointment later, but I might walk.”

Brian Dolzani, a father of two, who was scooping the powdery accumulation from his drive, said, “I’m surprised school is closed today. I think a delay would have been appropriate. My son Elliot wants to go to school – he likes gym.”

About the snow, Dolzani added, “I like a snowy winter. It’s way different than the past four or five winters. Mother Nature’s making up for it. As I skier, I don’t mind the snow. I just don’t like the cold. I know the temperature is going to really drop over the weekend, too, and that’s going to be painful.”

Nancy Peterson was also trying to make a dent in the snow. “I’m not sick of it; I just don’t know where to put it. It looks beautiful, especially in the trees, but I don’t like driving in it.”

Stuart Oravetz was shoveling out his mom’s driveway and seemed to have accepted the frequent snowfalls as the norm. “This year I’m so not affected by it. I’m just going with the flow and listening to the weather reports. I don’t mind the shoveling but I think next year we’ll invest in a snow blower.”

Oravetz’s mom Terry, headed to her job, said, “I work at Housatonic Community College. They had a delayed opening. We have lots of work to do – it’s the first day of classes for the semester. The snow is pretty to look at but it’s very disruptive. We’ve had more time off this January than any other year that I can remember.”

Husband and wife team Skip and Carol Hayden were making quick work of the snow piled in their drive.

“This kind of snow isn’t bad. It’s light and fluffy. You have to get to it before the sun melts the bottom layer though,” said Carol.

“I could do without the snow, but it keeps us in shape shoveling. I’m retired now. When I worked, it was much worse. I’m used to it,” said Skip.

Bob Foote, who was just returning home from the gas station, had pretty much had it with the snow. “I’m ready to go to Florida. I just got gas for my snow blower again to do my driveway again. It slows up business and now I have to go figure out how to keep ice off my overhang which drips onto my front porch.”

Junior Animal Care Keepers Series Slithers to Life

Junior Animal Care Keepers
Series Slithers to Life:

Five-week program gives youths hands-on experience
By Mike Lauterborn
© 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Fairfield, CT – They were bug-eyed with excitement about being in the company of feathery, slippery, crawly friends, and only too happy to assume even the most mundane of tasks in exchange for the close-up experience.

Thursday marked the opening day of Junior Animal Care Keepers, a five-week program offered by the Connecticut Audubon Society providing sixth- and seventh-graders with the opportunity to join staff in caring for and studying the animals housed at the center.

Program instructor Linnea McHenry, the center’s Animal Care Supervisor, said, “This is the third season we’re doing this. The last program was held Nov.-Dec. 2010 and had an incredible response, with 10 volunteers, which is a lot for this type of junior program. So we offered it again.”

McHenry explained, “The program teaches kids to be responsible and educates them about which animals are good pets and which are not. They learn that taking care of animals is a lot of work – and that there are factors you need to be aware of with a pet, like allergies in a family, feeding schedules, etc. This is also a great way for kids to start that are interested in being veterinarians one day. It’s very hands-on and they really learn how to handle these animals in the correct way – and to respect them.”

Today, the five participating students were assigned to clean the indoor raptor and mammal cages, though they also played a very visible role in supporting the center’s popular Creature Feature program, which was being conducted simultaneously. The latter is a free program that involves showing several animals up close to center visitors.

Eleven-year-old Matthew Yerushalmi, one of the Junior Animal Care Keepers, pitched in by loading hissing cockroaches into a portable container to show to visitors. He was surprisingly relaxed handling the multi-legged creatures.

“I don’t get scared of anything,” he said. “You can put a scorpion on me and I won’t care.”

Two steps behind him, Olivia Foley, 10, carried a similar container with a frog inside, while Olivia Groell, 11, toted a wooden box with a barn owl inside.

“After we finish our chores, we get to hold a favorite animal for a while and have fun with it,” said Yerushalmi. “I really enjoy that. My favorite is the bearded dragon.”

The majority of the animals used for education are contained in a toasty subterranean Animal Care Room at the center. There are typically about twenty to thirty animals there, ranging from snakes and birds to insects and turtles – even a hedgehog.

Helping McHenry guide the younger helpers on Thursdays is a team of five high school sophomores. About his junior counterparts, 15-year-old Will said, “We really try to get them interested so they can consider doing what we do as an option in the future.”

Said Foley, “I like working with the animals, and my favorites are the mice. I’m learning to handle animals that I really didn’t have any experience with before I started this program. I never imagined handling snakes and I realized they were pretty cool.”

The Connecticut Audubon Society is located at 2325 Burr St., Fairfield. For more information, contact 203-259-6305 or visit