'Winter Fun Day' offers new features

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Mansfield - posted Sun., Feb. 13, 2011
Dave, Elliette and Bekah Quimby enjoy the ice rink during 'Winter Fun Day.' Photos by Melanie Savage.
Dave, Elliette and Bekah Quimby enjoy the ice rink during 'Winter Fun Day.' Photos by Melanie Savage.

There were a number of changes to this year’s Winter Fun Day, held Feb. 12 on the grounds of the Mansfield Community Center. The event, in its fifth year, is a collaboration between the Town of Mansfield, the Mansfield Downtown Partnership and the Mansfield Community Center. There were the usual wagon rides around downtown Storrs, this year provided by Cedar Knoll out of Lisbon, as Storrs-based Breezy Acres Percherons has shut down its carriage service. Popular with the younger set was the addition of bottles of colored fluid, which could be used to make designs on the snow. “We’re calling it ‘snow tie-dye,’” said Kathleen Paterson from the Mansfield Downtown Partnership.

There was also a scavenger hunt, along with crafts and storytelling inside the Community Center, an addition incorporated at last year’s event. “It went really well,” said Paterson. “It’s a good way for kids to get a break from the weather.”

The weather this year was again cold enough for ice skating, and lots of folks took advantage of this perk. As usual, there was musical entertainment, this year provided by UConn’s newest a capella group, Notes Over Storrs. “We’re not afraid to try different styles,” said a representative of the co-ed group. They will soon be appearing at the upcoming Huskython, an event held to benefit the Connecticut Children’s Hospital. Contact the group at notesoverstorrs@gmail.com.

UConn Dining Services provided its usual demonstrations of ice-carving, this year concentrating on characters from the popular PBS cartoon, “Dinosaur Train.”

A new addition was the Tolland Country Dive Team. The group offered demonstrations of their equipment and rescue methods. The team currently supports 22 towns in and around Tolland County. “We’re the biggest water rescue team in eastern Connecticut,” said Deputy Commander Norman Meikle. “Any type of water rescue, we’re mobilized. We’re not only a dive team, we’re a swift water rescue team, as well.”

Meikle explained the capabilities of a winter dive suit. With a thermal Polartec undergarment and a tri-laminate outer shell, the suit allows a diver to stave off hypothermia for 45 minutes to one hour. “No part of our skin is exposed to the water,” said Meikle. The suit is equipped with a microphone that allows the diver to stay in constant audio contact with the shore. The suit can also be used in conditions where there might be hazardous materials in the water, such as a submerged vehicle. “Nothing gets through, and it can be decontaminated,” said Meikle.

Showing off a new addition to the Mansfield Fire Department was career firefighter Ted Morrissette. The department has just acquired a 16-foot aluminum rescue boat with a jet-drive engine. The boat can handle 13 people, as opposed to the three-person capability of the Zodiac the department has used for years. “We felt that we needed a more stable platform,” said Morrissette. The boat is equipped with a diving platform that doubles as a rescue platform. “If you’re pulling a victim out of the water, you have someplace to put the backboard, to get them stabilized before you pull them onto the boat,” said Morrissette. The jet-drive engine allows for navigation in as little as 4 inches of water. “These boats were very instrumental during Hurricane Katrina,” said Morrissette.

Last year, the Tolland County Dive Team was called out to a total of 22 rescues county-wide. The town of Mansfield alone has its share of water emergencies. “It’s pretty often that we get called upon for a water rescue,” said Morrissette. The Willimantic River typically overtakes its banks at least once during the spring season. “Last year, we had three kids who stole a boat and ended up stranded in a tree in the middle of the night,” said Morrissette. With the dive team’s assistance, the Mansfield Fire Department was able to bring all three kids safely to shore. For more information, visit tollandcountydivers.org.

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