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Saturday, April 16, 2011

Early Easter Egg-citement at Audubon Society

Early Easter Egg-citement at Audubon Society
By Mike Lauterborn
(for Fairfield Citizen News)

Fairfield, CT – Families enjoyed an Easter preview Saturday morning April 16 and a very special visit from a long-eared, fuzzy celebrity.

Over 75 people braved overcast skies and chilly temperatures to visit the Connecticut Audubon Society Center at 2325 Burr Street to take part in the facility’s 16th annual Egg Hunt. Targeted to children eight years old and under, the event also included a continental breakfast, spring crafts, interactions with live animals and a visit from the Easter Bunny.

Joan Winter, the Center’s publicist, remarked, “This is a lovely event, a sweet activity for young families to do with their small children. It’s special in its simplicity – low-key, calm and happy. I wish it was warmer this morning, but it’s still a great way to kick off the season. The crafts allow kids to be creative and the live animals are always popular. Besides all the activities, we have centerpieces of spring grasses in containers that kids can decorate and take home. What’s nice is the involvement of our teen animal care volunteers, many of whom were visitors as kids like these children today. They learn to be good stewards of the environment.”

Angela Benzan, of Westport, with her husband Steve and daughters Mia, 7, and Chloe, 5, in tow, were early arrivals. “The children are so excited to be here and start Easter early,” she said. “They’ve brought their pails and are ready to go.”

Kristin Brebbia, of Fairfield, with husband Joel and daughter Kenzie, 2, said the event was Kenzie’s first real Easter experience. “She’s a little scared of the Easter Bunny, but she’ll bounce back and have a good time today.”

The Taylor family, of Fairfield, were new to the area and thought the event would be a great way to meet other families, while being a fun outing. Said Amanda Taylor, “We wanted to come down and take part in the festivities and traditions.”

Watching his daughter Allie, 2, scramble for plastic eggs hidden amongst strands of straw in a garden area behind the facility, Martin Hripak said, “Allie’s mom is a teacher here, so we’re here a lot. Allie loves being outdoors. This is her first egg hunt. She’s excited.”

Guiding her three-year-old daughter on a craft project after the egg hunt had run its course, Sarah Sprague, of Norwalk, said, “Aubrey is in her element with the gluestick, crayons and blueberry muffin. It doesn’t get any better than this.”

In an adjacent room of the Center, Angelika Clum, eyed her daughter Nikki, 7, who had found a furry rabbit to pet. “We have a guinea pig and dog at home,” Clum said. “Nikki loves animals.”

“My favorite animal here is the bunny,” said Nikki, “though I got to pet the guinea pig, too. It was soft and cute and looked like our guinea pig, Mr. Nibbles.”

Dana Barnes, of Westport, and her daughter Chloe, 4, were collaborating on a coloring project. “It’s springtime and we really wanted to be outdoors and create a tradition with our daughter,” she said. “The egg hunt is a wonderful tradition and the crafts were an extra special treat. It’s something she loves and a chance for me to sit with her and create. This is nice for the whole family.”

McKinley Carnival Draws Kids of All Ages

McKinley Carnival Draws Kids of All Ages
By Mike Lauterborn
(for Fairfield Citizen News)

Fairfield, CT – The whir of generators, ring of bells, excited shouts and screams of kids, rat-a-tat of toy guns and smell of cotton candy and popcorn. It could only mean one thing: the carnival was back in town.

Not just any carnival mind you, but the McKinley Elementary School Carnival, an annual affair facilitated by the school’s PTA in partnership with Stewart Amusement. Set up in the parking lot area of Jennings Beach, the four-day event opened Thursday night April 14.

Keeping watch over operations early Friday evening, Jennifer Chrysadakis, McKinley School PTA President, said the carnival was first held in 1997, on school grounds. “It became so large that it was moved to Jennings Beach around 2003,” she said. “It’s the biggest fundraiser for the school. Last year we raised $14,000. The take is dependent on the weather. We had two days of rain last year. Hopefully it will hold off this year.”

Standing nearby, Carnival Chairperson Domingo Thomas said, “The event marks the beginning of spring in the region and is really the first major happening in town. This year, we’re featuring 16 rides including Zero Gravity, which is the most popular, the Ali Baba, the Tornado, the Scrambler, the Freefall, bumper cars, a ferris wheel, Super Slide, Hang Glider and a whole bunch of kiddie rides. We’re also featuring standard carnival attractions like a shooting gallery, water guns, a baseball toss and, of course food, this year catered by The Shack. The Student Council is on hand, too, selling spirit wear, while the 5th grade is offering candy.”

Grace Bentley, 13, of Fairfield, attending with friends Isabella Giannicchi, 14, and Courtney Mettler, 13, had just hopped off the Scrambler. “This is super fun,” said Bentley. “We come every year. Our favorite ride is the Ali Baba. We’re freezing right now, but it’s still fun… once you get through that numb stage.”

Bryan Dougherty, 16, of Fairfield, gingerly stepped down from the death-defying Zero Gravity ride. “That was unbelievable,” he remarked to friends. “A lot of head spinning. It’s great to go to a carnival that features extreme rides you would expect from an amusement park.”

Page Jones and her friends Jake Mazza and Megan Bernstein, all 13, looked shaken as they walked away from the Rip Cord ride, which takes passengers up a vertical tower and then drops them like rocks. “I freaked,” said Jones. “I don’t like heights, but it was alright. I’ll probably do it again.”

Pals Maddy O’Brien, 15, and Zondra Shirley, 16, had a great time on the Ali Baba attraction, which offers a platform that swings back and forth and then goes all the way up and around. “That was super duper fun,” said Shirley. “We go on this ride every year. It used to be scary but now it’s just fun.”

Swooshing down the Super Slide luge was Greg Wolf of Fairfield, with his three-year-old son Chris. “We come every year,” he said. “Our kids love it… the whole neighborhood comes. It’s a little colder than usual, especially up there.”

Mark Jacobsen, 32, of Stratford, was blasting away with a pellet rifle in Machine Gun Alley, trying his best to obliterate a red star on a small card. “I grew up in Fairfield and used to come to this as a kid,” he said. “This is the game I used to play back then. It’s nostalgic to be here. Nothing seems to have changed, which is the charm of it.”

James Baker, 6, and his sister Kate, 4, looked determined to hammer a few rodents over at the Whac-A-Mole game. Said father Jeff, “We’ve been coming here the last four years. Despite the cold, it’s been a great time.” James added, “I liked the Bouncer, the Slide and the fun house.”

Maria Giribaldo of Fairfield looked on as her daughter Melanie, 4, and her cousin Karen Velez, 8, climbed into a Dinosaur kiddie ride. “We’re having a great time,” she said. “There are so many people. It’s great to have a carnival here. The kids have so much fun.”