NEWS&VIEWS by Jacqueline Bennett

Dad & Niagara Falls

Posted on June 18, 2017

 Niagara Falls –  Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side.

Story & Photos by Jacqueline Bennett


Niagara Falls was one of my father’s favorite places. Although we (the seven Bennett children of John’s & Cecelia’s) were reared in Connecticut, my dad’s youth was spent in upstate New York and as often as possible he enjoyed returning to spots he had gone to as a boy.


As if it were yesterday, I can recall my first summer vacation to Niagara Falls. Dad, Mom, my sister Candy and I visited both the American and Canadian sides. Already, I travelled camera- in-hand, and am glad that was the case because I have some great memories captured on film. Others are in my heart.




Dad & Mom shown on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls.



One such heartfelt memory is of Dad standing close to the falls, seemingly mesmerized by its beauty and awe. It was mid-summer, the sun was intense and the heat was sweltering which brings to mind another Dad memory. After awhile, he opened his black umbrella and held it as a shield from the rays. Mom would have no part of using an umbrella on a sunny day but she did get a laugh from Dad doing so.


Photo taken by Dad or Mom – Candy and I riding across Niagara Falls.

Among the joyful moments on this trip was Candy and I riding a tram cart across the falls. It was exciting and fun. Even at that height a light splash of water could be felt and the air was distinctively cooler than on the ground. I must add that to this day it is bewildering to realize OUR parents agreed to let us ride across Niagara Falls. I am certain Dad must have convinced Mom. Whatever it was that made this ride come about, I surely am happy for the adventure.


The Maid of the Mist is an attraction at Niagara Falls which is still going strong today. Folks who follow General Hospital are aware of the storyline about little Charlotte’s desire to ride the Maid of the Mist. A ferry type boat that navigates towards the falls – passengers can don rain gear as protection from the “mist” coming off the powerful, gushing water.


A sensory delight –the obvious visual magnificence of Niagara, being touched by its mist and a tremendous, near thundering sound of the falls. Unforgettable.  


Niagara includes three falls on the border of the United States and Canada – the American Falls, Bridal Falls and Horseshoe Falls. It was fascinating to learn about daredevils who had gone over the falls in a barrel and to see those barrels firsthand. On the left hand side of the photo of my parents, take note of a couple of the barrels.


This vacation preceded my growing into an interest in shopping. So as Mom and Candy went off to do their shopping thing, Dad and I went exploring downtown Buffalo which is where our hotel was located. Dad and I came across a soda shop with a counter. We sat down and he ordered hot fudge sundaes, one for me and one for himself. The latter was unusual because Dad rarely had a sweet tooth. In retrospect, it was probably just a dad being a dad and joining in to make the treat more special.


As was typical of Dad, he took time to converse with a guard at Niagara’s Horseshoe Falls.


What was typical of my father though, was striking up a conversation with the soda server. Dad could converse with anyone. The key I think was that he was truly interested in what they had to say. Dad’s family had owned and operated a hotel, I believe that experience combined with his nature made him at ease with people. Years later, he remained cognizant of what it took to provide guests with good service and on any given vacation enjoyed engaging in conversations with hotel staff.


Bringing this piece full circle I return to Niagara Falls for another example of Dad’s gregarious personality. There he spent time conversing with one of the guards at Horseshoe Falls. Perhaps foreshawdowing my future in journalism, I snapped a photo!


  On this Father’s Day here’s to all the great dads who create wonderful memories for their families.

Head for Hammonasset’s East Beach – Any Beach -With A Walk In Mind

Posted on June 5, 2017

Write-Up & Photos By Jacqueline Bennett



Beach walking? Besides cute shorts remember sunscreen, lip salve, etc.

It is that time of year when thoughts turn to the shoreline, sandy beaches, rolling waves, the sweet fragrance of tanning lotion and … a quest for the perfect swimsuit. Beaches, however, are more than a place to sunbath and swim, they are terrific for walking.



This may be the summer for a mindset change. Replace the angst of finding the perfect swimsuit with picking out cute pairs of shorts, then head for Hammonasset’s East Beach with a walk in mind. Even if one is not laying out on a beach towel soaking up the rays, it is still important to wear sunscreen and lip salve for beach walking. Don’t forget sunglasses to protect those baby blues or browns. A cap is also a good idea.



Looking out over Long Island Sound.



Hammonasset Beach State Park in Madison, Connecticut offers hiking/walking trails and a boardwalk, both are great walking venues. Nevertheless, there is appeal to the feel of sand between the toes, and the tide lightly swirling around one’s ankles while walking a stretch at East Beach – one of a number of Hammonasset beach areas that span two miles on Long Island Sound. 


Near the entrance to East Beach.




Make walking the idea behind a trip to the sandy shores and enjoy an abundance of benefits. Not limited to Hammonasset, a beach walk is a chance to breath in the salt air. It is a chance to collect a treasure trove of shells. It is a chance to trade in a hum drum treadmill and drink in some of the the most gorgeous scenery on heaven and earth. As well, beach walks are good cardiovasular workouts that do not feel like exercise.




According to

  • Beach walking requires more effort than walking on hard surfaces
  • At the same time, sand provides a natural cushion for the feet and joints
  • Slower walking as feet sink into the sand requires more effort than fast walking or jogging on hard surfaces
  • Beach walking is so relaxing that people tend to walk longer distances
  • It is an opportunity to take in natural vitamin D
  • It can be emotionally grounding – a connection to nature
  • Calorie burn is 20-50 percent more than on hard surfaces
  • It is okay to walk barefoot for a certain distance notes but proper walking gear should be used for lenghty walks


Consider a couple more pluses to beach walking. There is no need for a forecast of bright sunshine and temperatures of 80 degrees or higher, to make the trip to the shoreline worthwhile. Another plus, pull on a sweatshirt and let beach walks be more than just a summer fling – they can become late spring and early autumn adventures.


(Look for more stories about walkable beaches to come.)

Colchester, CT 2017 Memorial Day Parade

Posted on May 29, 2017



By Jacqueline Bennett Write-Up & Photos



The Colchester, Connecticut 2017 Memorial Day Parade was dedicated to the town’s former Army National Guard Unit, Company B 143rd Heavy Tank Battalion. Held Sunday, May 28, the parade and accompanying ceremonies were among many across the state and throughout the country. Memorial Day honors those who died in service to the nation.

Company B 143rd Heavy Tank Battalion was deployed out of Colchester to Germany during the Korean War, according to the Norwich Bulletin. Parade Marshal Ray Ryan is said to be the last surviving member of that battalion.












Grand Marshal Ray Ryan, 88, the last surviving member of Co.B 143rd Heavy Tank Battalion, which was deployed out of Colchester, CT to Germany to serve during the Korean War.



Colchester Community Theatre Float









The parade stepped off at 12:30 p.m. proceeding down Norwich Ave. rounding the corner onto Main Street and concluding at the town green.

Bacon Academy

Colchester Continentals Fife & Drum Corps













Thank you for your service… 




Saying Good-Bye To K-9 Iko

Posted on May 24, 2017

Saying good-bye to K-9 Iko – Windsor, Connecticut Police Officer Steve Vesco is surrounded by other Windsor emergency responders May 22, 2017.

Story by Jacqueline Bennett  Photos courtesy of Ofr. Steven Vesco

Ofr. Steve Vesco and K-9 Iko.


Don’t Grieve for Me I served you well. I loved you more than you could ever tell. I am now an angel in blue. I laid my life on the line for you. I wore my badge with honor everyday to keep citizens safe and out of harm’s way. So when you see a badge worn with pride, remember their comrades and friends that have died. – author unknown



Officer Steven Vesco was joined Monday morning, May 22, by fellow first responders in Windsor, Connecticut to say good-bye to retired police K-9 Iko. It was just a few months ago that Vesco was optimistic about Iko’s prognosis for recovery following surgery for a herniated disc, and anticipated the 9-year-old German Shepard would live at least two more years. Having served Windsor together as partners for eight years making arrests, drug seizures and community appearances, Vesco wanted a happy, peaceful retirement for Iko.


Things took an unexpected turn this past weekend.


“He was a fighter. I knew he would keep fighting. But for who? Me. I couldn’t be that selfish,” Vesco said Tuesday.


Before departing on an annual fishing trip with his father and a couple of buddies last Thursday, Vesco had boarded Iko at the New England Veterinary Center (NEVC) in Windsor, not wanting his wife Heidi, step-son Sage and daughter Sadie to have to care for Iko while he was away. Vesco felt confident the canine would be well tended at the NEVC, which has veterinary services immediately available.


Before word came about Iko, Ofr. Vesco enjoying an annual fishing trip with his dad and friends.


Two days into the fishing trip word came that Iko was having a hard time standing on his own. Vesco cut the fishing trip short and returned. Even with Vesco present, Iko could not stand. Another surgery was a consideration. Iko had been diagnosed too with a urinary tract infection and needed to be moved to intensive care.


On Sunday Vesco attended his niece’s graduation from Quinnipiac University but left early from a family gathering held afterward to think the situation over. His wife and children stayed, then on the drive back home they stopped to see Iko at the hospital.


“When Heidi got home she said – ‘you have to decide,’ ” recalled Vesco.



On Sunday night, Vesco returned to the NEVC. There he made the very difficult decision to have Iko put down.


“I spent time with Iko, petting him,” Vesco said, “When I looked into his eyes – I knew. I left his badge with him.”


Iko was never quite the same after the two were in their cruiser and hit by a drunk driver three years ago, said Vesco.


It was in 2008 that Vesco had to say farewell to his first K-9 partner, his beloved Jag passed away not long after retirement. On the day of Jag’s passing, he was visiting the Windsor Public Safety Complex and on-duty officers formed an honor guard when the K-9 was carried out of the building. However, Vesco went alone with Jag to the veterinarian.


“There I was with Jag, all alone in my uniform. I knew I couldn’t go through that again,” Vesco said.


So, on Monday morning he called over to the police station to let them know Iko was going to be put down. With gratitude apparent in his voice, Vesco added, “Fifteen emergency responders came.”



Iko was brought outside NEVC on a stretcher. Among those joining Vesco Monday morning to say good-bye was Sgt. John Simon, a fellow K-9 handler who lost his longtime K-9 partner Kane in 2015. Kane was 16-years-old and had been retired for three years when Simon had to have him euthanized. It remains uncertain whether or not a memorial service will be held for Iko. There had been discussion of holding one for Kane which has not yet materialized, so Vesco said, any memorial would be a remembrance of both K-9 Kane and K-9 Iko. He said it may be left at the good-byes already exchanged.



New England Veterinary Center.



Vesco emphasized he is extremely appreciative for the calls of condolences that have been coming in, and added he simply cannot put into words how much it meant to have the big turnout from the Windsor community for a fundraiser in February 2017 held to pay towards the medical costs that had accrued for Iko. It was earlier in February that Iko was retired. As well, Vesco expressed appreciation to his bosses at the Windsor Police Department for their understanding. He said his family and friends have been supportive. Having gone through such a loss with him not once, but now twice – it has been an especially emotional experience for his wife, step-son and daughter, noted Vesco.


Last but far from least, Vesco praised the medical staff at NEVC for the care they gave Iko, their professionalism and compassion.

Shad Derby Festival Green & Parade – A New England Tradition

Posted on May 22, 2017

2017 Shad Derby Queen Cassie Okeke and her court – Amanda Schwartz, Jasmine Rush, Madeira Alexander and Brittney Brown – carried on the Queen’s Float through Windsor Center during the Shad Derby Festival Green & Parade held Saturday, May 20 in Windsor, CT.


Article & Photos by Jacqueline Bennett


A beloved New England tradition for more than half a century, sunny skies graced the 2017 Shad Derby Festival Green and Parade Saturday, May 20 in Windsor, Connecticut. Festival and parade-goers turned out in large numbers on this gorgeous day to enjoy what is a signature event of  Connecticut’s first town.


It started with a small – socially conscious – fishing derby in 1955. First held to clean up the Connecticut River and its banks in Windsor, which is situated at the confluence of the Connecticut and Farmington rivers and neighbors the state’s capital city. Over the years the Shad Derby has grown to become a highly anticipated spring ritual attracting thousands.


One of the highlights for those who turn out is welcoming the newly crowned Shad Derby Queen & her court. Each year they travel the parade route on the Queen’s Float, sponsored by the Civitan Club since the 1980s. The 2017 Shad Derby Queen – Cassie Okeke was accompanied by her court – Amanda Schwartz, Jasmine Rush, Madeira Alexander and Brittney Brown.



“The shad always return.”


Windsor Jaycees float honoring shad as Connecticut’s state fish.

The shad always return,” is the motto of the event put on by the Windsor Jaycees; the group also entered a Shad Derby parade float.



Heralded as a great New England tradition, the Shad Derby Festival Green & Parade provide a snapshot of hometown U.S.A. Among the popular annual attractions is a depiction of a shad ‘swimming’ the parade route and symbolizing the annual upstream migration of shad back to Windsor. In 2003 shad was named Connecticut’s state fish. Shad was chosen due to its historic significance as a source of food and commerce dating back to having fed Native Americans and colonists.


Ebony Horsewomen.



Milkshakes for their horses? Bart’s Drive-In after the parade.

Popular among onlookers were the Hartford-based Ebony Horsewomen. Later the group gave a pleasant surprise to patrons at the iconic Bart’s Drive-In, stopping by the restaurant which is located near the banks of the Farmington River.  Milkshakes for their horses? 





Windsor Fife & Drum Corps offered a reminder of the nation’s roots in the American Revolution; the Windsor High School Marching Band showcased other talented youths. The Windsor Warriors Air Force R.O.T.C. took part on what was , as well, Armed Forces Day. Members of the Windsor Freedom Trail Committee marked their 21st anniversary. Among the politicians participating were 1st District Congressman John Larson and United States Sen. Richard Blumenthal. After walking in the parade, Blumenthal took time to shake some hands.


Windsor Fife & Drum Corps.

WHS Marching Band

Windsor Warriors Air Force R.O.T.C.








1st District Congressman John Larson and U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal participated in the Shad Derby Parade.

After marching in the parade, Sen. Blumenthal shook hands with members of the Windsor Freedom Trail Committee.

Windsor Freedom Trail 21st Anniversary.



























Thomas Hastings was joined by the Red Sox Green Monster mascot.




Drawing applause was Thomas Hastings, “Windsor’s Biggest Red Sox Fan.” Diagnosed with muscular dystrophy, Thomas has thrown out the first pitch at Fenway Park – home to the Boston Red Sox. Thanks to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Thomas also had a Fantasy Fenway miniature replica of the famous ballpark build in the backyard of his Windsor home.








Over on the Town Green the festival was in full swing.

The Windsor Marksmen Association held a game booth.

Windsor Lions Club sold hotdogs and hamburgers

Learning martial arts.













Craig who grew up in Windsor but now lives in Ellington came back with his daughter, 1-year-old MacKenzie, to enjoy the day.




Shad Derby Festival Green & Parade is held annually on the third Saturday in May. Visit  to learn more. 

Alex’s Lemonade Stand Fundraiser Draws Crowd in Windsor, CT

Posted on May 9, 2017

 Liz Scott and longtime family friend Ann Walsh with James, Maggie and Ariana Nikolis (siblings) and Juliana McMahon May 5, 2017 at Jim’s Pizza in Windsor, Connecticut.

Article & Photos by Jacqueline Bennett

Courtesy photo Alexandra Flynn Scott – Jan. 18, 1996-Aug. 1, 2004 – founder of Alex’s Lemonade Stand.


Thanks to a little girl with a caring heart Alex’s Lemonade Stand was founded. A bouquet of flowers in hand having been crowned an honorary Shad Derby Princess, it is hard to imagine more than ten years have passed since that little girl – Alexandra Flynn Scott – battling neuroblastoma was surrounded on the Town Green in Windsor, Connecticut by the Shad Derby Queen and her court.



On May 5, once again the Windsor community – hometown to Alex’s parents Liz Flynn Scott and Jay Scott – turned out to surround the Scott & Flynn families with love and support for a fundraiser at Jim’s Pizza. Although Liz and Jay Scott relocated to Pennsylvania to seek advanced treatment for Alex, they have maintained strong ties to Windsor where family members and friends still reside. Born on January 18, 1996, Alex lost her fight against childhood cancer on August 1, 2004.


“It’s amazing,” Liz Scott said of the turnout.


Liz, her husband and their sons Patrick, Eddie and Joey have carried on with Alex’s Lemonade Stand on behalf of Alex who became known globally as “the lemonade girl.” Alex was just four years old and dealing with her own illness when she decided she wanted to raise money to help other children stricken with cancer. So she set up a lemonade stand in front of her Connecticut home.


Since 2005 the foundation has raised more than $140 million for pediatric cancer, funding research projects in “129 top hospitals” in the United States and Canada, according to the ALSF website. At the May 5 fundraiser $3,100 was said to have been raised.


“We’re always fundraising in new ways,” noted Liz, pointing to the new Kick It pledges campaign.


Alex’s grandfather Patrick Scott (front right) with Ericka Parker and Bob and Sandra Gustafson.

Among the group Jim Walsh, Sharon Pepin, Laurie Brousseau, Pat Hustus, Eric & Kelley Pearson, Dave & Lisa Neilson, Bill & Michelle Walsh … Nearby Michael and Jacki Walsh.

Stanley and Abigail Gryskiewicz











Debbie Samson (right) with her daughter Stacey and grandson Haydes.

Suffield Economic Development Director Patrick McMahon grew up in Windsor (left front), shown  with Windsor Town Councilmen Kenny Wilkos and Jim Govoni, and co-founder of Back East Brewing, Tony Karlowicz (front right).

Tom and Margaret Dillon















“This is fantastic. There are a lot of new faces,” said Patrick Scott, Alex’s grandfather.




“I think the event was absolutely awesome, one of Windsor’s community and family efforts,” said Ann Walsh, a longtime friend of the Scott and Flynn families, and among the original Alex’s Lemonade Stand volunteers.



“It is beyond the beyond that after all these years so many people come together, young and old. It is a tribute to parents and teachers,” Walsh said by phone May 9, “It means to me that Alex’s dream, one little girl’s dream, has become known worldwide because of her attitude and persistence.”


Patrick McMahon & a company of volunteers.

Walsh added that Liz and Jay Scott are to be commended for carrying on the torch for Alex. Walsh, who lost her husband Bill to cancer, said she and Liz Scott share a philosophy about grieving. That philosophy being – there are moments for tears but as time marches on tears will do nothing, whereas action can make a difference.


“I believe in action,” said Walsh.


Debbie Samson who recently helped organize a fundraiser for a local police K9 that needed surgery, attended with her daughter and grandson. She said she wanted to support the cause and had special praise for the community efforts of Ann Walsh.


“She is a community treasure,” said Samson.


Speaking about the Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, Windsor Town Councilman Kenny Wilkos added, “It’s a great thing that they have been able to accomplish.”


The Alex’s Lemonade Stand fundraiser is expected to become an annual event at Jim’s Pizza.


For more information visit   

“Riders Mount Your Horses” – Why is Kentucky Derby Day Special?

Posted on May 6, 2017

Shown with her horse ‘Have-A-Heart’, in her younger days in Upstate New York, Gram -Bessie Reeve Bennett-  was an accomplished equestrian. Horse racing began in America in 1665 in New York, in 1875 the first Kentucky Derby was held.

By Jacqueline Bennett


Even for those who do not typically follow horse races, the Kentucky Derby is an exception. First held in Louisville, Kentucky at Churchill Downs on May 17, 1875, it may well be the most storied Thoroughbred race in American History. The quality of the horses that compete in the Kentucky Derby is a major aspect of what makes it so special. It is not easy to obtain a berth in this race which is described as the longest running sports event in the United States. Aptly, the Kentucky Derby is characterized as “iconic.” 


And, every horse has a story…


Today the 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby will take place. Which magnificent 3-year old will come away with the win? Will it be the favorite Classic Empire? Or will Always Dreaming come through – the most recent odds are 4-1 and an “established trainer”, Todd Pletcher, may be a plus. Irish War Cry’s odds are at 6-1 at this writing – with a father known as a “mudder” excelling on muddy tracks which may bode well for his offspring given the wet weather conditions. Perhaps sentiment will carry Patch, who is missing a left eye, to become a surprise winner. Patch will start in the last post.


USA Today reports that 20 horses will compete, expected are 160,000 in the stands and $100 million in bets placed. Regardless of the winner, Kentucky Derby day is a time when the country pauses to admire the beauty and athleticism of these animals. How did America’s love affair begin with Kentucky Derby day?


One might venture to guess that for so many American families, including my own, horses held an integral place in their lives as our young nation grew. Other than Red Sox games, the Kentucky Derby was the only time I recall my father would stop to watch a televised sporting event. He spoke of Churchill Downs with reverence in his voice. A reverence undoubtedly developed during his childhood when the Bennett Family had stables of horses on Sunny Crest Farm in Upstate New York, and when Dad’s mother, my grandmother, Bessie Reeve Bennett, was said to have been an accomplished equestrian.  


In fact, horses had an integral role in American history. Along with the Colt 45 horses helped win the west, carried mail on the Pony Express and were critical to American farmers. Last but far from least – their speed and agility became sources of sport and competition. Horse racing started in America in New York, according to online sources. In 1665 the Newmarket course was established on what is now Long Island where historians say the first racing meet was supervised by the New York colonial governor.  


Some two hundred years later came the inaugural running of the Kentucky Derby. Known presently almost as much for ladies in attendance wearing wide-brimmed, ornately decorated hats and sipping Mint Juleps, as the outstanding competitors it attracts, this day allows us to step back into a genteel time. It is about honoring tradition. It is the first leg of the Triple Crown and winning can catapult a horse to universal celebrity. The rare few who win the Triple Crown – the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont stakes – approach immortality.



Today when a misty-eyed crowd sings “My Old Kentucky Home”, when the call goes out “riders up” and when hearts beat faster as the trumpet beckons the field to post – once again it will be time to pay homage to a glorious aspect of America’s history.


(Revision & Update – Always Dreaming won the 2017 Kentucky Derby)