Youthtopia returns to Jewett City's Veterans' Park
By Janice Steinhagen - Staff Writer
Jewett City - posted Mon., May. 20, 2013
Idyllic weather greeted the return of Jewett City’s Youthtopia festival to Veterans’ Memorial Park on May 18. The community festival, which had been cancelled last spring, returned this year with a wider focus intended to lure residents of all ages, not just kids and teens.
“We have more for everybody,” said Ryan Aubin, director of Griswold Youth and Family Services, which spearheaded the event. He estimated that between 600 and 1,000 fairgoers attended this year, a clear increase from attendance of about 400 at the event’s 2011 installment.
Sam Fishman of Westerly, R.I., whose toy stand sold everything from inflatable giant hammers to vuvuzelas, agreed that the numbers were up from two years ago. “It’s beautiful weather, people are coming out. I’m a happy vendor,” he said.
His next-door neighbor, George Manko of Harrison Desserts, was hawking shaved ice in a mind-boggling variety. “There’s 60-plus flavors,” he said. “Take your time, pace yourself.”
Somewhat less appetizing was the booth run by Griswold High School students in Betsy Kowal’s independent study sociology class. Their public-service message, aimed at smoking prevention, included “Smokey Sue,” a puppet whose “throat” was a clear glass tube. When Sue smoked an actual cigarette, a drizzle of ominous-looking brown-black tar dripped down the tube.
Student Kaelyn Phelps explained that her classmates were helping younger kids make “tar bottles” filled with a mixture of maple syrup and shredded wheat. The tar bottles, she said, “show how much tar accumulates in a smoker’s lungs after two months.” It’s an object lesson on the dangers of smoking, she said. “The kids make them and say, ‘I’m showing this to so-and-so,’” she said.
Young visitors had the chance to don a sumo suit to “wrestle” their friends; race a boat by blowing through a straw at the Cub Scout Troop 20 rain gutter derby; check out the Life Star helicopter; and make a bead bracelet at the Jewett City Savings booth. Among the day’s attractions were musical performances by Spittin’ Image and Elvis impersonator Ray Ellis; a magic show, a hula hoop demonstration; and visits by minor league baseball mascots CT the Tiger and the New Britain Rock Cat.