NEWS&VIEWS by Jacqueline Bennett

New England’s Largest Gingerbread House Festival

Posted on November 29, 2016


A gingerbread replica of Harry’s Place, a popular roadside hot dog stand located in Colchester , CT in a shack listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Story & Photos by Jacqueline Bennett



Stop in at Harry’s Place, visit Middle Earth, imagine walking a candy coated covered bridge or appreciate the architectural beauty of historical buildings. It is all possible in the same place, a gingerbread house world on display at South Windsor, Connecticut’s Wood Memorial Library & Museum through December 10.


Closed Tuesday & Wednesday. Admission is free.


Wood Memorial Library & Museum in gingerbread form!

Wood Memorial Library & Museum in gingerbread form!


Also upstairs is a Ye Olde Gingerbread Shoppe and small gift store.


The Wood exhibition is billed as one of the largest – if not the largest Gingerbread House Festival in New England. At least one hundred gingerbread houses can be viewed on two floors of the festively decorated historic library. Each gingerbread house is hand crafted by community members – experienced or novice, area artisans, bakers and students.


An annual event, the gingerbread wonderland is a fundraiser which pays for the library’s educational programs, archives and the many exhibitions put on throughout the year, note library staff. As with all things, some times creativity simply flows and this is one of those years for the Wood exhibit. Select musical performances are scheduled during the festival including one by The Sweetest Key, an all-female a cappella group slated to perform December 10, 11 a.m. – 12:30.




A candy coated New England covered bridge.

A candy coated New England covered bridge.

Interested in rescuing a dog?

Interested in rescuing a dog?

Seeking unity and voter participation in a presidential election year.

Seeking unity and voter participation in a presidential election year.


















This is a great spot to put aside those worries and cares and focus on fantasy. And to think, these clever creations are edible.





Wood Memorial Library & Museum, P.O Box 131, 783 Main Street, South Windsor, CT 06074,  or call 860-289-1783. Handicapped entrance and elevator available.


Ben True “To the Wire” Win, Sisson Fastest Woman at Manchester Road Race

Posted on November 28, 2016

Runners pass under the American flag as they head for the 80th Manchester Road Race finish line.

Runners pass under the American flag as they head for the Thanksgiving Day, 80th Manchester Road Race finish line 11/24/2016.

Write-Up & Photos by Jacqueline Bennett


Excitement on Main Street in Manchester, Connecticut reached a crescendo Thanksgiving Day at the 80th Manchester Road Race as two elite male competitors ran nose and nose to the finish line. Ben True of Hanover, New Hampshire took the win on the 4.75 mile course in a time of 21 minutes: 31 seconds. The last few strides between True and Leonard Korir of Colorado were so tight it made for a finish described both as “thrilling” and a “nail-biter”.


In True’s own words “it was right down to the wire”, the 30-year-old, told Fox 61 television that broadcast the road race live. True also won the MRR in 2014.

Winner Ben True being interviewed by Fox 61.

Winner Ben True being interviewed by Fox 61.



Emily Sisson, 25, of Providence, Rhode Island, a first-time MRR participant, won for the women with a time of 24:08.  Local favorite Donn Cabral, a 2008 graduate of Glastonbury High School, came in 8th. Nonetheless, that did not seem to diminish the Olympian’s popularity with fans who later asked for selfies with Cabral.

Note the Olympic rings tatoo on Donn Cabral's shoulder.

Note the Olympic rings tattoo on Donn Cabral’s shoulder.

Local favorite Donn Cabral poses for a selfie with fans.

Local favorite Donn Cabral, a Glastonbury High graduate, poses for a selfie with fans after the 80th running of the Manchester Road Race.



Women's winner Emily Sisson awaits the start of her post-race interview.

Women’s winner Emily Sisson awaits the start of her post-race interview.



Large crowds that historically line the streets of downtown Manchester  have become        a part of the lore of this

Captain America?

Captain America?

sporting event, one of the biggest in New England. Again this year, race watchers were out in full force in chilly temperatures, continuing to applaud and cheer on runners even after the winners had crossed the finish line in front of St. James Church.


A downtown Manchester bakery was a popular spot on road race day.

The Bread Box Bakery & Pastry Shop in Downtown Manchester was a popular spot.


Registration for the MRR is limited to 15,000 but stragglers often fold in once the race gets underway. Runners clad in costumes and bands playing along the race route are some of what gives the MRR what True called a “fun” and “festival” atmosphere. Road race day is also typically a boon for downtown businesses such as “The Bread Box Bakery & Pastry Shop” which was a go-to spot.


Last but far from least, the Manchester Police Department and the city of Manchester had plenty of security measures in place to maintain safety at the road race.


Manchester;s finest were on hand to maintain safety.

Some of ‘Manchester’s finest were on duty to maintain safety.

Street blockades to ensure safety.

Street blockades to ensure security.


Young Artist -Sofia- Has Drawing Selected for Cover Design

Posted on November 22, 2016

Drawing by Sofia

Drawing by Sofia


By: Jacqueline Bennett


It was no surprise to her classmates and friends when Sofia Landeck-Williams, a student at Island Park Elementary School in Mercer Island, Washington, had her drawing selected in a districtwide competition as the cover design for the school directory. The surprise, however, came for the promising young artist when the directories were delivered to her class.



“A student came into her classroom to pass out the student directories and announced to Sofia that she won the cover,” noted Sofia’s family, “Everyone in the class was so happy for her. There were all kinds of ‘congratulations’ and comments that they all knew she was going to win.”



True to Sofia’s caring nature, her first thoughts when she came home with the good news were about the other students who had also submitted drawings,


“You know what else is so cool … all my friends got to have their drawings inside of the book, too,” said Sofia.


Courtesy photo - Sofia hard at work on her drawing.

Sofia hard at work on her drawing – courtesy photos.

Sofia used a fine point felt marker.

Sofia used a fine point felt marker.

Sketched with extraordinary attention to detail – take notice of the eyes and beak – the drawing depicts the school mascot which is an eagle. It was created by ten-year-old Sofia, who turns eleven in December, using the medium of a fine point felt marker. Her entry was chosen as part of an annual contest sponsored by the Parent Teacher Association. The winner is picked “purely on merit”.


“Sofia’s passion is drawing. It’s her solace, her talent and her joy,”  her grandmother Debbie Landeck said.


From pencils, to art pens & paper, Sofia loves to draw. As well, she enjoys drawing on a computer pad that was a birthday gift from her father, Dan, given to Sofia “because she loves to draw so much”. After completing a drawing on the computer pad, she is able to print it out.


“She loves to watch all kinds of drawing videos to learn different styles,” added Debbie.


Any spare moment Sofia has, free time at school, during lunch or recess, she can be seen with pencil in hand – drawing. Sofia’s elation over the cover selection is shared by her family. Clearly, Sofia’s joy for drawing is also a gift to others!



(Writer’s note: Sofia is my niece.)


80th Manchester Road Race Running on Thanksgiving Day 2016

Posted on November 13, 2016


Photos by Jacqueline Bennett   The Manchester Road Race is held annually on Thanksgiving Day in Manchester, CT

023 By Jacqueline Bennett


The 80th running of the Manchester Road Race will take place Thanksgiving Day, November 24, slated to start promptly at 10:00 a.m. One of the largest sporting events in the Nutmeg state, MRR was honored in May with the presentation of the 2016 Connecticut Sports Writers’ Alliance Award recognizing the race’s “significant contribution to sports in Connecticut”.


As of early this morning, online registration remained open with 10,416 runners signed up, according to the MRR website. Visit for information about registration which will be capped at 15,000. Online registration will end November 17, at 14,000, this year there will be no evening or same day registration. However, walk-in registration will be held at the Sports & Fitness Expo on November 21 – registration forms can be downloaded.


Last year 13,892 registered runners participated, MRR organizers report. Of course, MRR is well-known for it ‘rogue’ runners who run but do not register, they can be seen folding into the race after it gets underway. It is equally well-known for its “high-spirited” atmosphere where runners often show up in costumes and bands play along the race route.


The loop footrace through the streets of Manchester covers 4.748 miles, beginning and ending in front of St. James Church on Main Street. In 2015, first place for men was taken with a time of 21:34 and 24:15 for the women.



Inside the Army & Navy Club.



New this year, for security reasons “seeding” for likely top competitors will be kept to 42 minutes”, as well, seed areas have been reduced. Pre-race day activities have become increasingly popular say race organizers, and will be combined for the 80th MRR into what’s being called “Road Race Saturday”. “Organizationally it just makes sense,” MRR Race Director Jim Balcome was quoted as saying.


Something that remains the same, is an opportunity on race day to warm up inside the Army & Navy Club on Main Street while enjoying coffee, hot chocolate and donuts! Accu Weather is predicting Manchester weather to be 53 degrees and cloudy on Thanksgiving Day.


Scheduled for November 19, “Road Race Saturday” will feature a 7:30 a.m. start of Little MRR for children under 12 (in its seventh year), an 8:00 a.m. start for the Silk City Strider’s “Know Your Pace”, and a Sports & Fitness Expo at Bennet Academy on Main Street. New Finish Line t-shirts can be purchased at Frame Dimension, 681 Main Street in Manchester or 995 Farmington Avenue in West Hartford.  Proceeds from the race benefits Muscular Dystrophy research and other charities.


MRR will be broadcast live on FOX61 TV; both WMRQ 104.1 FM and WTIC 1080 AM will provide race day radio coverage.

On Veterans Day Remembering “Doughboy” Uncle Frank Sheedy

Posted on November 11, 2016

Photo first discovered by my nephew - a tenth anniversary reunion of our Great Uncle Frank Sheedy's World War I unit - believe Uncle Frank is somewhere in the pic.

Photo from community freepages.militarty. Photo was first discovered  by my nephew – a tenth anniversary reunion with Uncle Frank Sheedy’s World War I unit.

020By Jacqueline Bennett

Great Uncle Frank Sheedy who served in WWI with Mom and my sister Candy at Aunt Jessie's in New Hampshire.

Great Uncle Frank Sheedy who served in WWI with Mom and my sister Candy at Aunt Jessie’s in New Hampshire.


It was World War I that brought our Great Uncle Frank Sheedy to us. As it was told to me as a little girl, Uncle Frank had been gassed by the enemy. Upon returning to his home state of New York he was sent upstate to recuperate and came to Sunny Crest Farm in Bloomingburg, New York, which was owned and operated by my family. There he forged a lifelong bond with the Bennett Family.


What I remember most about Uncle Frank were his bright blue eyes, his gentle spirit and the sweet, gracious letters he penned. Vividly I recall Uncle Frank seated in his recliner by the bay window -cane at his side- in Aunt June’s dining room in her home in Stoneham, MA, in Aunt June’s living room conversing with my father and standing on Aunt Jessie’s porch in Tilton, New Hampshire saying good-bye after one of our visits from Connecticut.


Born on November 29, 1887 he passed away on October 12, 1970 and is buried in Tilton. I knew he had served in World War I but I never heard him talk about those days. One of my nephews has researched Uncle Frank’s service and for this Veterans Day piece about Uncle Frank, I did as well. That brought me to an community site called freepages.military.


Uncle Frank served out of New York as a private with the 57th E Artillery Battalion. According to the diary pages of a member of that unit, they were trained with foreign weapons, French rifles, and their first offensive battle took place from September 12-15 where they “took up positions” in Sampigny, France. “In a few days the fire support allowed the ground troops to root the German’s strongly fortified positions in the Saint Michel salient. Numerous prisoners, supplies, guns and ammunition were captured in battle,” wrote the soldier.

From freepages.military

From freepages.military Cpl Curtis Collection

From freepages.military

From freepages.military Cpl Curtis Collection


From freepages.military

From freepages.military Cpl Curtis Collection









Fighting reportedly ended for the WWI 57th E when the November 11, 1918 Armistice was signed – on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month- now recognized in the United States as Veterans Day. To Uncle Frank and all our American veterans – thank you for your service.


Addendum ***Below click on the PDF file of a 1919 New York Times article about the return voyage to New York of Uncle Frank’s unit. Also, here are a few historical notes of interest: “doughboy” is a nickname given to U.S. infantrymen particularly from W.W. I; at the time W.W. I was called “The war to end all wars”; and, a popular tune of the era was “Over There”by George Cohan – “Over there, over there… send the word, send the word to beware, we’ll be over, we’re coming over… the Yanks are coming, the Yanks are coming.. And we won’t come back until it’s over, Over There…”



Raggedy Ann Returns to 55th Farmhouse Fair at Ellington Congregational Church

Posted on November 7, 2016

Handmade Raggedy Ann & Andy dolls are part of the Farmhouse Fair tradition - pictured are Dianne Durgan and Penny Gates

Handmade Raggedy Ann & Andy dolls are part of the Farmhouse Fair tradition – pictured are doll makers Dianne Durgan and Penny Gates.


Article & Photos by Jacqueline Bennett



I love you.

Nearly a century has passed since Raggedy Ann came on the scene and for close to half that time, Penny Gates & company have been making Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy Dolls for the Farmhouse Fair in Ellington, Connecticut. Sponsored by the Women’s Fellowship and hosted by the Ellington Congregational Church, the 55th Farmhouse Fair was held November 4 and 5.


From a faceless rag doll packed away then forgotten in an attic, the now iconic Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls were born. According to online sources, legend has it that while rummaging through his mother’ s attic, American artist Johnny Gruelle found an old rag doll his mother had made for his sister. Gruelle is said to have thought the doll would make a good story. A face with a triangle nose was drawn on the doll and red yarn hair was added. Created in 1915, Raggedy Ann debuted to the public three years later through the “Raggedy Ann Stories”. In 1920, her brother was introduced in the “Raggedy Andy Stories”.


“We have a crew and we do it together. I cut out the dolls and embroider their faces then give them to the girls to sew,” said Gates, who was joined at the fair by Dianne Durgan, a fellow doll maker.



Raggedy Ann doll clothes.

The dolls come back for their crowning glory – to have their yarn hair put on. No longer however, do the women make all Raggedy Anns and Andys redheads. Instead, the dolls reflect diversity in the country’s population. What has remained the same is the words “I Love You” sewn inside a heart on each doll. The women also make and sell separate outfits for the fashionista Raggedy Ann who desires a change of clothes.


“Last year we sold nine,” said Gates, noting the Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls are not as popular as they once were.


Nonetheless, it seems too soon to count out the rag dolls with the famous faces. A comeback for such an American classic may be just around the corner.




Another Farmhouse Fair tradition is “Cookies in a Can”, noted Marcia who was manning the cookie table. One parishioner is a former baker and donates dozens of shortbread cookies – those jellied filled cookies are so delicious! The rest of the tasty cookies are also made by parishioners and tend to sell out quickly, said Marcia. As for the can part of “Cookies In A Can” – used coffee cans are donated to be cleaned, sterilized, decorated with Christmas wrapping paper, then filled on the spot by choice. It’s an all volunteer effort.


“I just put out the call,” said Marcia.



















Outdoors, a pleasant man directed parking in the church lot, and a friendly greeter handed out programs at the back door entrance. Spread out on three levels of the beautiful Congregational Church in quaint Ellington Center, in the basement level was the Social Room where Raggedy Ann and Andy and the cookies were located. As well, other baked goods were for sale there, the Farmhouse Fair Cafe was in full swing and an accordion player shared holiday tunes.

Fabulous Fibers & Knits

Fabulous Fibers & Knits



Kid’s Korner

The Quilt Cupboard

The Quilt Cupboard









Meanwhile, first floor church classrooms were transformed into spaces for the fair’s Fabulous Fibers & Knits, The Quilt Cupboard, Celebrate the Seasons, Wild & Tame and the Kid’s Korner. On the second floor was The Doll Corner and the Eclectic Boutique. All three levels were accessible by elevator.




Ellington Congregational Church 72 Main Street, Ellington, Ct                                                       or by phone 860-871-6606




Send Forth A Tiny Ripple of Hope – VOTE

Posted on November 5, 2016


Windsor, Connecticut

Commentary by Jacqueline Bennett


“Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope …” Robert F. Kennedy.


With one of the most crucial presidential elections our nation has ever been asked to decide but days away, this quote from Robert F. Kennedy has been on my mind. Ever the idealist, I still believe in the power of tiny ripples of hope.


In this most famous portion of what has become known as his “Ripple of Hope” speech, Kennedy went on to say “and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance”. Kennedy delivered the speech in South Africa in 1966, during the “worst of Apartheid” and a government media ban on some anti-Apartheid activists, notes 


A government media ban. Words that are appalling, and should be frightening in this great country of ours, the United States of America. Our nation was built on central principles such as freedom of the press, religion and expression. For years as a newspaper reporter, I have covered Memorial Day and Veterans Day ceremonies and 9/11 remembrance ceremonies where those great principles were exalted. Men and women of  the U.S. military – some in my own family – have sacrificed and fought, given their lives to protect and preserve those principles.


Major Oliver Elwyn "Bunker" Generous.

Major Oliver Elwyn “Bunker” Generous.

This nation has stood time and time again against the forces of evil, and for good. Two of my uncles served during World War II. As it was told to me, my Uncle Bunker was a WWII fighter pilot and after the war he went on to fly cover for numerous Berlin Airlift missions. Each fight, each mission, representing a tiny ripple of hope.


We must not doubt the strength of one vote to carry on the current of hope the U.S. has long symbolized. Our Republic was founded amidst overwhelming odds.  Despite differences of opinion and policy, we have continued to stand together “one Nation under God”. A beacon of political civility to the world, after the tallies were counted we have carried on with a peaceful transition of power.


Vote on Tuesday, November 8. Send forth a tiny ripple of hope.