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NEWS&VIEWS by Jacqueline Bennett

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 newsandviewsjb.com  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 newsandviewsjb.com

 

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 http://www.windsorshadderby.org  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 newsandviewsjb.com

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 https://www.alexslemonade.org   

“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 newsandviewsjb.com

 

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)

 

Expect Pepper & Promise At My Place

Posted on May 2, 2017

Steamed carrots.

By Jacqueline Bennett newsandviewsjb.com

 

 

My morning began as it usually does, at the computer either writing an article or researching a story. About an hour into it, I stopped to prepare and cook some fresh vegetables for the day – broccoli and carrots. My nieces Debbie and Donna and my nephew’s wife Melane are all fabulous in the kitchen, and my sister Candy is becoming so – although time was when what she made best were reservations.

 

Truth be told, however, I’m not much of a cook. When it comes to cooking I have more in common with my niece Jillian who is fond of saying, “If I’m cooking, it IS a headline.” Actually, I am more at ease writing this piece about peeling and chopping than standing at the counter doing the peeling and chopping. In the past, I would schedule my time at the stove to avoid days or nights when I had to cover meetings, conduct interviews, etc. Not because of the labor involved, rather because of what steam does to my hair; think of the Monica character on “Friends” and the humidity frizz episode. 

 

Nonetheless in a cardiologist appeasing effort – I try. Yes, Dr. D I’m talking about you.

 

Tea & Spices cabinet.

Despite the fact that I adore my tea & spices cabinet, if you come to my place – pretty much expect everything to be seasoned with pepper, Light Promise and if I really get ambitious, olive oil. Probably my best dishes – in the past- have been lasagna which I used to make for my college friends, and baked chicken with melted Muenster cheese on top -or not- your choice. And, I’m told I can make a mean chocolate chip cookie.

 

Mixed reviews on my Pumpkin Whoopie Pies.

In recent times I have been working on expanding my three basic options, successfully adding grilled salmon. Yeah! But back in 2014 for my “Mom’s Recipe Box Family Series” I attempted to increase my baking repertoire to include Pumpkin Whoopie Pies, even purchasing a Whoopie Pie maker. They were met with mixed reviews.

 

Suffice to say, what hasn’t changed is that, if I’m preparing a meal for company, these are folks I’m truly interested in spending time with, and, or, getting to know.   

 

 

On the other hand if you’re into tea, come on over. My current favorite is ‘Jammin Lemon Ginger’. Herbal and caffeine free, it is said to be easy on the stomach and good for digestion. Put out by Celestial it tastes good too. My all time fav is Earl Grey. Add a touch of honey.

 

Back to the subject at hand. What exactly is the subject at hand? Remember “Seinfeld” – the television show about nothing. This is the newsandviews post about nothing. Why? Because as I said, I love writing much more than cooking.

Crullers – A New England Favorite

Posted on April 20, 2017

By Jacqueline Bennett newsandviewsjb.com

 

Crullers are a New England favorite. In fact, speculation is they have been part of the New England menu since the days of the Pilgrims. Now considered to be of the donut genre, it is interesting that the English settlers were so fond of crullers when as it turns out the origin of the name is Dutch – kruller, meaning to curl.

 

And curled or twisted they are, that is true crullers. Deep fried dough pastry. Imposters can be found at donut shops that shall remain nameless, but a flat appearance, often not thoroughly cooked dough and bland flavor are giveaways.

 

All that twisting apparently makes authentic crullers “labor intensive” thus explaining why they are becoming more and more rare. It is not easy to find a true cruller, the flavor of which is convincingly enhanced by the twisted constitution.Thick, oblong and sweet tasting even in its simplest state – plain. Adding powered sugar or light frosting to crullers takes them to another realm among morning delights.

 

 

One spot where the real thing can found is at Gerry’s Donuts. A small, independent shop located just past the new roundabout at the Ellington Five Corners on Windsorville Road in Connecticut. Be prepared – in addition to the crusty crullers, here one sometimes also comes across traditional, ole’ “crusty New Englanders”. Nonetheless, gathering up a cruller or two for 80 cents each, or a half dozen for about $3 is a worthwhile bargain. According to staff crullers sell out fast, typically by 8 a.m.

 

Gerry’s also serves delicious Mountain Dairy milk produced at the Stearns Family Farm in Storrs where the workday milking starts at 3 a.m.  http://mountaindairy.com  Perfect, because the cruller experience is incomplete without a cup of hot coffee or tea, or better yet, some farm fresh cold milk.

 

Where do you find traditional-style crullers?

Enjoy the Nevers Park Walking Trails

Posted on April 7, 2017

Perhaps it looks like November but this is Nevers Park on April 5, 2017 – National Walking Day, part of the American Heart Association’s “Move More …” campaign.

Article & Photos by Jacqueline Bennett newsandviewsjb.com

 

Trail maps.

Prepare to smile, nod or say hello to everyone you pass along the walking/hiking trails at Nevers Park in South Windsor, Connecticut. Greetings for all are an unwritten code here.

 

The 137 acre multi-generational park has three stone dust trails of different distances, A, B & C. The longest trail is the most wooded. Each one is mapped out for visitors on a sign in the lower parking lot.

 

Located on the corner of Sand Hill and Nevers Road the park is directly across the road from the South Windsor Police Station and behind South Windsor High School. It is a popular and typically active recreational spot which also has a Rotary Pavilion available for impromptu picnics, or that can be rented for special occasions. There is a 20,000 square foot boundless playground and at the top of Sand Hill is a dog park, “Bark Park”. Nearby an emergency phone and water fountain can be found. Several side-by-side soccer fields can host multiple concurrent games at the lower level. Don’t hold me to this but I believe Connecticut Grey – a rugby club for mature men – practiced here at some point.

Striding along trail B. In the distance is the South Windsor High outdoor track.

 

For three seasons – spring, summer and autumn – the walking/hiking trails are usually the busiest after supper on weekdays, and throughout the days on weekends. Not Grand Central Station busy, but small town New England busy. Come winter, it is pass at your risk because the trails are not maintained from November 1 – April 1.

 

Exercise stations attract serious athletes.

 

Serious athletes can be seen utilizing the exercise stations situated along the trails. Another nice feature is the memorial trees planted across the park.

 

Nevers Park is one of my favorite places to go walking.