Looking back at 2013, part 4

By Steve Smith - Staff Writer
Vernon/Ellington/Tolland - posted Mon., Dec. 30, 2013
Sgt. Greg Caron moved into his new home in Ellington in September. File photos by Steve Smith.
Sgt. Greg Caron moved into his new home in Ellington in September. File photos by Steve Smith.

Fall began with celebrations. The Rockville Fest attracted crowds, as did the Celebrate Tolland event. Tolland Director of Recreation Tom Ainsworth said the event was a lot of work, but it really brought people in Tolland together. “It’s a great event to bring the community together and showcase what’s good about Tolland, and it’s just a real fun day," he said.

Tolland also celebrated the long-awaited opening of the new turf field at Tolland High School. The field, which was funded with $700,000 in state grants and $300,000 in bonding, hosted an Eagles' football game after a ribbon-cutting cerermony on Sept. 20. At the cerermony, Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman said the local legislators worked hard to get the grants, but it was also largely a grassroots effort.

“It’s the citizens of Tolland that made this happen,” Wyman said.

The Vernon Town Council approved bonding for a  $27,637,000 road improvement plan that will tackle many of the town's streets that have had long-overdue repairs. While many residents and council members were upset that the town did not have the foresight in the past to include a more regular upkeep plan that would have cost less in the long term, most agreed that it was now necessary, despite the fact that paying off the bonding would ultimately cost Vernon even more.

“Because we didn't put money away on a yearly basis, we are going to pay $40 million,” said councilman Michael Winkler. The referendum is set for Jan. 28, 2014.

The Vernon Town Council also bid farewell to Marie Herbst, who retired after 48 years of public service on Oct. 15. "At my age, there comes a time," she said. "There's a time, and you have to feel it and do what your heart is saying."

Tolland High School seniors Genna Hoyt and Aiyla Zahid (co-presidents of THS's World Language Club) pulled off a successful culture fair, with the help of their teachers and classmates. More than 100 attended the fair, which highlighted cultures from around the world. Hoyt and Zahid said their project hit many snags, and was delayed more than once, but ultimately was hugely successful.

They added that they hope it was the first annual occasion of the event. “If we do it next year, I think we’d accumulate more people, because more know about it now,” Hoyt said.

Rockville High School hosted more than 600 musicians from high schools in Connecticut and Massachusetts at its Oct. 19 Festival of the Bands. The annual event is suppored by the efforts of students and families. RHS Band Director Darcy Davis had high priase for the Rockville Band parents, who he said “are just tremendous. They help with sewing, making props and funding trips that the band takes during the year. That can get expensive, since we travel just about every week.”

On Election Day, Vernon voters chose their new mayor. Former Police Officer Dan Champagne (R) received 3,101 votes, while Democratic candidate Tom DiDio received 2,056. Champagne said he is looking forward to working with the council, and bridging partisanship, and thanked voters for coming to the polls.

“I believe in communication and helping people to understand. I'm hoping that if someone has problems they would come to us, and we'll be able to work it out,” he said. "With all the support that I received, it's the people of the town of Vernon that really need the thanks.”

In December, the Rockville High School commuity rallied around two students undergoing treatment for serious health issues. The Rock Strong festival included several musical acts, poetry readings, and the works of several artists, as well as the efforts of students, faculty and staff, resulting in thousands of dollars raised for the cause. The event was spearheaded by members of the RHS Unity Club.Unity member Brendan Kennedy said that messages and other feedback he heard during the event was evidence that it indeed succeeded.

“People thought it was great,” he said. “They enjoyed the music. They really loved it, and they enjoyed the positive message.”

Local high school sports teams fared well in fall tournaments. Tolland's volleyball team posted a 13-7 regular season record before going all the way to the Class M quarterfinals. Ellington had a 12-8 record and went as far as the second round.

Ellington girls' soccer was 11-4-1 for the regular season, before going to the second round of the Class M. tourney. The Tolland girls were 12-2-2 and earned a #2-seed before losing a heartbreaker, 3-2 in the semifinals. The Tolland boys had a 12-4 season, but dropped a first-round game, while the Ellington boys took their 14-seed and impressively went all the way to the state finals, but lost to undefeated Suffield.

The Tolland girls' cross-country team was tops in the CCC, CIAC Class M and State Open. "It's the dream season," said coach Judi Lafontaine. "I couldn't have asked for more. These girls worked so hard this summer. That's the key to a good program – the girls being willing to sacrifice their summer for their training. Graduating only two seniors out of her starting seven, LaFontaine said Tolland will have little drop-off in 2014. "We'll be fully-stocked next year," she said.

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