Centennial Savin Rock Festival marks 100 years of “The Rock”


Written by Michael P. Walsh

WEST HAVEN, CT – In the midst of a weekend of fabulous weather and 5,000 people, the Centennial Savin Rock Festival paid tribute to the enduring legacy of “the Rock” while marking West Haven’s 100th anniversary.

The two-day festival, hosted by the City of West Haven’s Centennial Celebration Committee in Old Grove Historic Park, was part of a series of free six-month events commemorating the birth of the community in 1921 and its incorporation by the General Assembly as the youngest municipality in Connecticut.

The Coastline Festival showcased West Haven’s last 100 years and the age-old recipe – bands, rides, games, mouthwatering food – that made 20th-century Savin Rock Park so famous as “New Brunswick’s playground. England”.

Marenna Amusements once again provided the middle of the rides and games.

A dozen trucks of a baker’s dream food and dessert on Palace Street served burgers, hot dogs, cheesesteak, french fries, gyros, lobster rolls, kebabs and spicy chicken , as well as cannoli, cupcakes and ice cream.

The festival opened on Friday with welcoming remarks from Mayor Nancy R. Rossi, honorary chair of the committee, and followed with a spectacular performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner” by Grace Kelly Nowak of West Haven.

Rossi thanked the Army of Municipal Services, staff and volunteers who made the festival possible, including Public Works Commissioner Tom J. McCarthy, Human Resources Commissioner Beth A. Sabo, Food Truck Coordinator Kristen Teshoney and entertainment coordinator John Ziada.

Rossi also encouraged people to check the West Haven Town Hall Facebook page and the city’s website for information on upcoming centennial events.

“We have plenty of food trucks, we have great weather and we have tents with items to buy,” Rossi told the party crowd. “Hope everyone is having fun and having a good time.”

Radio personality Brian Smith, returning for the fourth time as ceremonial “ringmaster,” then announced the evening’s music lineup by proclaiming, “We’re back to business, babe!”

The Hooch, an acoustic duo blending elements of hip-hop, pop and soul with a soft voice, warmed the sea of ​​spectators for headliner Mean Carlene, the hometown favorite.

MC performed a two-hour plus show of party rock anthems you know by heart, including Dave Matthews Band’s “Ants Marching,” AC / DC’s “Highway to Hell”, and Bryan Adams and “Neil Diamond’s” My Dear Caroline. “

The prankster group – Rob Hames on bass guitar and vocals, Joe LaDore on acoustic guitar and vocals, Bobby Moran on electric guitar and vocals, Rich Weber on drums and vocals – entertained and interacted with the crowd of all ages turning the concrete slab in front of the portable stage into a giant dance floor for family fun.

On Saturday, the 151-year-old Grove, fanned by a cool summer breeze, provided a beautiful setting under sun-drenched oaks for the Rubber City concerts – fed by a brass section in the vein of Average White Band, Chicago and Tower of Power – and the funk band Covergirl.

They were complemented by Smith, a former co-host of WPLR’s “Smith and Barber the Morning Show,” who chained the groups with hysterical bursts of comedic relief.

“I’ve been doing this for 100 years – since the start of West Haven,” he snapped before announcing the winning teams for the festival’s beach volleyball and bocce tournaments.

The winner of volleyball was PG Sports; each player received a century-old stemless wine glass. The finalist was Mandy and the Sandy Hands; each player received a centennial pin.

The winners of the pétanque were Ralph Manzo and Tom Mancini, over 60 division; Lawrence Manware and Scott Meager, Under-60 Division; and Cindy Thomas and TeJay Mejias, student division. Each winning team received two $ 25 ReBar Bar + Pizza gift cards.

Ahead of the start of Rubber City, Rossi introduced U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Who hosted festival-goers and well-known veterans, including Vietnam War Army veteran Rick Wigglesworth, of West Haven, who flanked the scene in a wheelchair because of a stroke years ago.

Blumenthal praised the centennial celebration, calling West Haven “one of the most patriotic cities in Connecticut and the United States.”

The night’s headliner, Shameless, kept the party going by performing an energetic ensemble of hip-hop, pop and rock gems, including Van Halen’s “Jump”, Rick Springfield’s “Jessie’s Girl,” “Don ‘ t Stop “by Michael Jackson. Til You Get Enough ”and“ Jump Around ”by House of Pain.

The enthusiastic members of the five-piece group threw glow sticks and other party supplies at crowds of all ages, cementing the Grove as a dance party in the United States.

During the afternoon, members of the West Haven Fire Department, led by Captain Mike Buonasora, demonstrated the Jaws of Life tool by lifting open parts of a vehicle to free those that are trapped inside.

A short distance away, members of the West Shore Fire Department, led by Lt. Rebecca DeFrance, demonstrated their amphibious rescue boat.

West Haven Fire Marshal Keith T. Flood demonstrated the services 35-foot smoke trailer and showed children what to do in the event of a fire.

At the Craft Fair, longtime sales assistants Diana Burnham and Diane Della Camera were joined by new sales assistants Jennifer Abrams, Kathleen Collister and Harvey Cutler to sell their wares.

Burnham, owner of Designs by Diana in Manchester, displayed her Celtic sterling silver jewelry, and Della Camera, from West Haven, sold t-shirts, sweatshirts, hats, tote bags and dice fuzzy Savin Rock.

Abrams, owner of The Crafty Llama LLC in Stratford, showed him handcrafted potholders, hats and tote bags, along with his personalized mugs and hand-painted wine and liquor glasses. Collister, owner of Curious Escape in Newtown, showcased his line of crystals, essential oils and jewelry, while Cutler, from West Haven, showcased his collection of vintage baseball cards, coins, movies and miniature cars.

West Haven Rotary Club President James P. O’Brien and Secretary Lynne Schlosser have sold WestHavenOpoly, West Haven’s century-old version of the Monopoly board game featuring important community locations. The $ 30 game is available here. Sales will benefit the Rotary Club Foundation.

The West Haven High School cheerleading team, led by coach Bridgette J. Hoskie, sold Westie bows, bracelets and temporary tattoos as part of their fundraising efforts .

The festival, which began on July 24, 1982, joined other events observing the secession of West Haven from Orange a century ago. The rural and residential sections of Orange split in 1921 when the residential section, West Haven, became the youngest city in the state.

From the dawn of the Savin Rock House Hotel in 1838, The Rock had long been a resort town until it was officially incorporated as an amusement park by the Savin Rock Park Co. on Memorial Day 1925, when it opened its doors to 300,000 visitors and 66,000 automobiles. in a spectacular day.

Over the next 40 years, the popular seaside park captured the hearts and imaginations of “Rock Rats” young and old. “The Coney Island of Connecticut” closed on September 21, 1966, to pave the way for the Savin Rock urban renewal project.

In the spirit of West Haven’s birthday, Sabo, the committee chair, sold centennial coins, pins and signs in the hospitality tent.

Each person who purchased a $ 10 lawn sign will be entered into a raffle for a chance to press a “start button” to help start this year’s fireworks display. The winner and up to three guests will also dine on burgers and hot dogs under the Savin Rock Fireworks Committee host tent before and during the show.

All merchandise proceeds generated by the centennial committee will offset the expense and support the centennial budget of $ 50,000 approved by city council, Sabo said.

Milford seller JOD Designs, a veteran-owned screen printing company, has sold Centennial and Savin Rock T-shirts.

For a full list of centennial events, check out the schedule here. For centennial merchandise, visit the official online store here.

The store, hosted by West Haven vendor West Shore Associates, sells century-old branded merchandise such as long and short sleeve t-shirts, hoodies, stainless steel tumblers, wine glasses without foot, insulated drink bottles, ceramic mugs, retro sunglasses, canvas and cotton tote bags, eco-performance masks and pigment dyed twill and mesh trucker caps.

A portion of the proceeds from the sellers’ merchandise will support the centennial account, Sabo said.

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