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Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Beach Fireworks Attract Thousands

Beach Fireworks Attract Thousands:
Display brief but colorful, lighting up the night
By Mike Lauterborn
(posted to 7/5)
© 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Fairfield, CT – Thousands of people from all over the region came together Monday night with one mission: to witness one of the greatest attractions Fairfield has to offer.

The annual fireworks show, wherein rockets are launched from a barge off Jennings Beach, commenced at approximately 9:15 p.m. to the delight of thousands of people that had gathered along a three-mile stretch of shore. Sitting towel to towel, blanket to blanket, chair beside chair, they cheered and oohed as colorful patterns spread across the sky.

Many spectators had Glo-lites around their necks, which accented the beach scene. Others burned candles or had small lanterns. They wore shorts and tees or bathing suits still from an afternoon spent frolicking in the sand and water.

From the loud applause that followed the show, it was clear a grand time was had by all. Happy 235th Birthday, America!

Veterans Mark 4th with Declaration of Independence Reading

Veterans Mark 4th with Declaration of Independence Reading
By Mike Lauterborn
(for Fairfield Citizen News)

Fairfield, CT – As the small troop dressed in tri-corner hats and greatcoats marched up the pathway, one couldn’t help thinking of the true significance of the Fourth of July holiday. And that was the point.

Mid-Monday morning on the Town Hall Green, in a shady space behind Fairfield’s war memorial, veterans, dignitaries and the general public came together to celebrate Independence Day. The chief highlight was the reading of the Declaration of Independence by three young students in Colonial period garb. Several patriotic songs were also performed by Fairfield Warde High School graduate Sofia Filan and a poem was read and discussed by featured speaker Linda Paslov, Second Vice Regent from the Eunice Dennie Burr Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (D.A.R.). The event was conducted by the United Veterans of Fairfield, which is comprised of members from the local Veterans of Foreign Wars post, two American Legion posts and Disabled American Veterans.

“This is the 118th year of this ceremony,” noted Roger Moscater, a former commander of the American Legion Post 74 in Fairfield and the emcee for the event. To get the ceremony started, he signaled Carol Frawley, producer of the Fairfield Teen Theatre, who was leading five Colonial-costumed students onto the Green along with a group of veterans. Carrying flags, they marched up the center aisle of a block of chairs in which approximately 50 people were sitting, and made their way to the back of a platform on which town dignitaries and speakers were positioned.

Frawley earlier remarked that her students, who are participating in the summer theater program sponsored by the Town Parks and Recreation Department, “help bring us back to what the celebration is all about besides picnics and fireworks.”

Among town officials present, First Selectman Michael Tetreau said, “There’s no question that the reason we can celebrate, disagree and go through the fall campaign and elect our leaders is because of the sacrifices many have made. We can’t say thank you enough, but it is important to say thank you.”

Tetreau added, “If you look back, Fairfield had an important role in the Colonial period. This celebration is an important part of our past. So much of our history is tied into it. Everywhere in town, there’s something going back to that time. We’re one community today, bonding with past and future generations.”

The holiday had particular significance to the First Selectman, given that his brother Bill is currently serving in Afghanistan. “I emailed him this morning to wish him a happy Fourth,” he said. “He sent me a schedule of activities for his base – and even invited me to join in! It include a 5K run and special meals.”

Tetreau’s own plans included heading to the beach for fireworks. “I’m dying to see how the new Pavilion looks,” he said with regard to the new main structure at Penfield Beach, on which construction is being finalized. “The deck and restrooms will be open, and some concessions.”

Featured speaker Paslov put the meaning of the holiday in sharp focus, reading “A Veteran’s Return”. The poem compared the experience of a male soldier returning from the American Revolution in 1778 to that of a female soldier returning from a conflict overseas in 2009. For the former, he lost his home, had injuries to nurse and faced an uphill climb to return to prosperity. For the latter, she had missed her infant son, faced mortgage loan defaults, homelessness and no job. Though these veterans had fought conflicts more than 230 years apart, they faced similar battlefield challenges and post-battle scars.

Paslov also spoke of Fairfield’s own wartime experience, when on July 1, 1779, the people of Fairfield awoke to a warning from the fort at Black Rock that a British fleet had been spotted and was anchoring off the coast. Some people and livestock fled to safety while others stayed to defend the town. Their efforts included destroying a bridge that would have allowed the British to gain access to the Black Rock Fort. In retaliation, British Major General William Tryon began burning homes. As the British left, a rear guard of German mercenaries set additional fires, burning to the ground buildings, churches and ministers’ homes.

While celebrating our freedom, Paslov wanted the gathering to be aware of the important work that still needs to be done with respect to the treatment of American’s veterans. “Did you know that a woman who has served in the military is up to four times more likely to be homeless than a non-veteran woman?” she asked. “And did you know there are only about a dozen female-only facilities in the entire country, and less than ten transitional beds in the State of Connecticut for homeless female veterans?”

Paslov said the D.A.R. supports the new PFC Nicholas A. Madaras Home for female veterans in Bridgeport, and has purchased bedding for 15 beds.

Singer Filan, who has been performing since the 4th grade, said she was honored to sing at the event, her second year doing so. “Listening to all the speakers opens your eyes to what the veterans faced and continue to face,” she said.  

Young Westport Archer Aims for 2016 Olympic Games

Young Westport Archer Aims for 2016 Olympic Games
By Mike Lauterborn
(for Westport News)

Westport, CT – Blue-eyed, sweet and caring… and deadly accurate with a recurve bow at 18 meters. That’s how you might describe Miranda Wright, an 11-year-old Coleytown Middle School student who has become somewhat of a phenom in the sport of archery. Having placed first in every state championship she entered, she has an excellent shot at representing the United States in the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. On a recent rainy weekday at her Hockanum Road home, she shared her tale with Westport News.

“I first started last summer,” she said, sitting at the kitchen table of the family home, which was built by her father, Eric, a contractor. “My dad tried it first, going with a friend to Hall’s Arrow, an indoor shooting range in Manchester, CT. He was really excited about it and thought it would be good for me to try.”

Eric said he got interested in the sport in the summer of 2009. “I was attracted to the Zen of archery,” he said. “It’s one of six Buddha disciplines, which also include ink painting, the art of theater, flower arrangement, tea ceremony and swordsmanship. I thought it would be a good way to get in touch with my body. I love it. It’s relaxing.”

On her first visit, in June 2010, Miranda practiced with a wooden bow her dad rented for her, over a two-hour period. “I really liked it,” she said, “and wanted to learn more.”

Eric bought her a hobby bow – a wooden bow that doesn’t require much adjustment. “I saw right away that she had a natural form, which is really unusual,” he said. “She was a natural.”

Miranda enrolled in classes at Hall’s, where she started shooting from 10 meters. She quickly advanced to 18 meters, which is the indoor archery competitive distance, and has since moved up to 30 meters.

“My first competition, which is known as a warm-up, was Nov. 7, at Hall’s. “In my division, which is called Bowman, for ages 12 and under, I placed 4th,” she said. “I was pretty happy with my performance. My next warm-up was Dec. 10 and I placed 4th again, but there were more competitors.”

Her first major competition was the Junior Olympic Archery Development (JOAD) Regionals, held over three days this past February in Andover, MA. The event included the Massachusetts Archery Association Annual Indoor State Championship.

“I competed in both and placed first in the Bowman Female Recurve category,” she said. “I was now using a new bow, made of aluminum with carbon compound limbs. It was heavier, but helped with my accuracy.”

Eric said she has since gone on to win six more state competitions, placing first at every one. The events include the New England Indoor Open, Nutmeg State Winter Shootout, New Jersey JOAD Championship, Spring Shootout in Fairfax, VA, and the Ohio JOAD Championship.

“I definitely think this is my thing,” Miranda said, looking ahead to the Olympics. She would be the youngest to compete if she was to make it. Her participation would be based on her competition scores to date, which are documented by U.S.A. Archery, the organization that runs JOAD and fields the U.S. Olympic Team.

On July 7, Miranda will compete in Sacramento, CA, at the JOAD Nationals. If she was 16, winning that would be significant as she would be eligible to go on to a world competition and the 2012 Olympics. The more critical period will be when she turns 16, in August 2015, and competes in the matches that lead up to the 2016 Games.

Eric said there’s a big difference between how archery is supported in the U.S. and other areas, like Asia. “In South Korea, kids Miranda’s age are entered into the state’s archery program and they are intensively trained for Olympic competition,” he said. “And every Olympic Games, they almost always place 1, 2, 3. Here in the U.S., there’s no such preparation or involvement. You’re really on your own in this sport here.”

Currently, Amanda practices an hour-and-a-half three days a week, has physical training with Fairfielder Tracy Bloom two days a week and has a JOAD class on Saturdays.

Sitting in for the interview, Bloom explained how the personal training she provides has application. “Archery requires an upper body and core strength focus,” she said. We strengthen her to perform better but also to prevent injury. I have her do exercises to build her strength, balance and coordination, zeroing in on shoulders, back, wrists and torso. Miranda is very focused and dedicated. She likes to push herself. She’s a true athlete.”

Despite all the hard work, Eric said it will not be an easy path to a world stage. “She’s shooting a lot arrows and getting her body in shape, but it’s extremely involved to prep for world competition,” Eric said. “In South Korea, there’s more adoption of athletes earlier on. It will take great dedication on our and Miranda’s part to meet the challenge.”

With a twinkle in her eye, Miranda said, “It’s fun to watch the South Koreans compete and I hope to go up against them one day.”

Eric added, “This country prizes individual effort. We’re going to give it the old college try.”