Thanksgiving week time to count one’s blessings

November 20, 2017

By: Larry McHugh

It is Thanksgiving time again in Middlesex County and throughout our great nation. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, not simply because of the great turkey dinner with all the trimmings, but because it inspires reflection and a true appreciation of what is important in life. I am blessed with a wonderful family, led by my wife Patty, and a network of friends that truly has my back. It is an honor and a privilege for me to serve as president of the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce, a dynamic business organization with over 2,250 members that employ over 50,000 people. I am thankful for my staff at the chamber who works hard on behalf of the business community in Middlesex County on a daily basis. We have a dedicated Board of Directors, led by Chairman Rick Morin, which truly makes Middlesex County a great place to live, work and play. I have also been honored to serve as chairman of the University Of Connecticut Board Of Trustees for the past eight and a half years alongside an outstanding and dedicated Board of Directors. UConn has become one of the top public research universities in the nation, something we should all be proud of. I am thankful to be a citizen of the United States of America, a place where life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is guaranteed in writing. I want to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving, and I hope everyone keeps in mind those who are less fortunate during the holiday season.

It is hard to believe, but the 32nd Annual Holiday on Main Street, presented by Pratt & Whitney, is here.  Festivities begin this Friday at 4 p.m., with free wagon rides on Main Street.  In front of the Middlesex Chamber, the Kiwanis Club of Middletown members will be selling Hot Pretzels & Popcorn, and in front of the Church of the Holy Trinity, Middletown High School Crew Team will be selling Hot Chocolate, Coffee & Desserts.  There will be three Tree Lightings, a holiday parade up Main Street, and a number of other activities. There will be a break while the Tree Lighting is happening on the South Green, and the rides will resume after the Tree Lighting at Middlesex Chamber.

The first Tree Lighting, set to take place at 6 p.m., will illuminate the big tree on the South Green and will be led by Mayor Dan Drew and Santa Claus. Also on hand on the South Green will be the Middletown High School Chorus, the Woodrow Wilson 7 and 8th Grade Chorus, and the Keigwin Middle School Chorus. Last year, over 2,500 people were able to enjoy the holiday sights and sounds on the South Green, and even more are expected this year. The Carol Sing will begin at 5 p.m. prior to the tree lightings. After the tree is lit on the South Green, there will be a parade up Main Street, led by the Middletown High School Marching Band, the Woodrow Wilson Middle School 8th Grade Band, and Santa Claus, to the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce where the tree on the roof will be lit at 6:15 p.m. for the second lighting of the evening. Immediately following the tree lighting, there will be free pictures with Santa, and wagon rides for the whole family until 8 p.m.  From 7:00-9:00 p.m., the Middletown Police Dept. and Eli Cannon’s Tap Room will hold a stuff-a-cruiser event at Eli Cannon’s. Donors may bring new, unwrapped gifts for children and adults, or items for the Veterans Home, such as soap, razors, shampoo, and more. At 8:15 p.m., festivities will take place in front of Eli Cannon’s Tap Room at 695 Main Street highlighted by the third, and final Tree Lighting of the night. Santa will arrive to light the tree, and elves will be on hand to provide all children with complimentary popcorn, cookies, hot chocolate and other treats. Each Tree Lighting is free of charge to the public. Holiday on Main Street continues on Saturday, November 25, and December 2, 9, and 16.

This Saturday’s event will feature The Civitan Club of Middletown selling Popcorn and Hot Pretzels in front of the chamber, and holiday music played by Harvest Woods Audio. The Fun Train will offer free rides up and down the sidewalk, and families will have the opportunity to take free horse and wagon rides, and meet Santa. At 11:30 a.m., Holiday Story Time will take place at The Inn at Middletown with Cookie Mouse and Mayor Dan Drew. A Kung Fu Demonstration by Tat Wong Kung Fu Academy will be held at 1 p.m. at the Middletown Fire Department, and a Pet Food Drive will be held throughout the day in front of Holy Trinity Church to benefit the homeless pets at Middletown Animal Control. Santa’s Mailbox will be in front of the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce from November 20 through December 8. Children’s names and addresses should be on the letter so Santa can respond accordingly. Parking for Holiday on Main Street is free in city parking lots. For all of the details on events and activities, please visit www.holidayonmain.com. We hope to see you downtown!

Next week, as November draws to a close, features a few important meetings in our region and throughout the state.

I look forward to attending a meeting of the Connecticut Culture and Tourism Advisory Committee next Monday afternoon at DECD’s new offices on Columbus Blvd. in Hartford. The Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce has always recognized that tourism is a key economic driver in our region and throughout our state. I look forward to meeting with my fellow committee members as we continue to work to make Connecticut a key tourism hub in New England.

Next Tuesday evening features a MEWS+ hosted “Innovation Meet-up” at CenterPlace Connecticut in Middletown beginning at 5:00 p.m. The MEWS+ is an exciting co-working initiative that will complement the many other economic development initiatives that are currently underway in Middletown and in Middlesex County. The plan for the MEWS+, which stands for Middletown Entrepreneurs Work Space and more, is to use the second floor at the chamber office as headquarters and as the Co-Working Space. We want our initiative to be a resource for freelancers, start-up businesses and small businesses, and the Wesleyan and Middlesex Community College communities. The Wesleyan community is of particular importance. Middletown is fortunate to be home to Wesleyan University which is a diverse, energetic liberal arts community where critical thinking and practical idealism go hand in hand. With its distinctive teacher-scholar culture, innovative programming, and collaborative commitment to interdisciplinary learning, Wesleyan challenges students to explore new ideas and change the world. We are working to develop constructive MEWS+ curriculum that will complement on campus activities. We will also work to connect Wesleyan students with downtown Middletown and with the dynamic business community that exists in Middlesex County. In addition to the co-working space, the MEWS+ will develop a series of “Meet-ups” in Middletown that will attract businesses and entrepreneurs of all shapes and sizes. The MEWS+ will be a great place to start a new business or grow an existing company. As a co-working initiative, it provides not only a place to work, but also a collaborative working environment. This shared workspace environment will attract a creative class of developers, designers, strategists, artisans, writers, inventors, engineers and professional office nomads. Our goal is to create a truly dynamic public/private partnership that will fuel local innovation. At next Tuesday’s Meet Up, attendees will enjoy networking with local entrepreneurs and high growth companies, receive a refresher on the chamber and its newly created Entrepreneur Council, and engage in an open discussion on the creation of a dynamic co-working initiative in Middletown. The event will also feature a business card raffle featuring great prizes, a tour of the many office options available for businesses and entrepreneurs at CenterPlace and OfficePlace, and a great spread of appetizers and refreshments courtesy of OfficePlace Connecticut. We look forward to another productive event that will help pave the way to the development of an innovation eco system in Middletown.

Next Thursday evening, November 30th, Jeff Pugliese and I will attend the Celebrate Connecticut Awards put on by the Connecticut Economic Resource Center (CERC) at the Bushnell in Hartford. This event honors one company and one initiative in each region of the state, and celebrates their contributions to economic and community development. The Middlesex awardees for 2017 are Pegasus Manufacturing and Goodspeed Musicals. Pegasus Manufacturing provides dependable and integrated Contract Manufacturing Services in Fabricated Tube and Pipe Assemblies, Precision Machining and Gearing. The company is recognized on an international level as a highly specialized contract manufacturer with complete turn-key solutions. They are also a terrific corporate citizen that we are lucky to have in Middlesex County. Goodspeed opened its doors as a professional musical theatre in an historic building on the banks of the CT River in East Haddam in 1963. Under the direction of Michael Price, Goodspeed transformed from a struggling entity into a non-profit arts organization with a mission. Goodspeed stands as the first regional theatre in America to earn two special Tony Awards, one in 1980 for outstanding contributions to the American Musical and one in 1995 for distinguished achievement for a regional theatre. Goodspeed is a key tourism stakeholder that we are also lucky to have in our region. We look forward to honoring our partners next Thursday night in Hartford, and continue to appreciate their strong commitment to our region.

Finally, I again ask chamber members to save the date for the final major chamber event of 2017, which is scheduled for Tuesday, December 12 at the Radisson Hotel in Cromwell. Governor Dannel P. Malloy, now approaching his eighth and final year in office, has appeared at our December Member Breakfast Meeting in every year of his administration, as have all of our sitting governors, going back to the administration of Governor William A. O’Neill in the 1980’s. We look forward to welcoming a sold out crowd of businesspeople, public officials and other chamber supporters for the 2017 version of our annual Governor’s Breakfast. This event, sponsored once again by Eversource, will begin with networking at 7:00 a.m., breakfast buffet at 7:30 a.m., and meeting program 8-9:00 a.m.

Happy Thanksgiving, Middlesex County, and as you enjoy the holiday, please keep in mind the brave men and women of our Armed Forces serving at home and around the globe.

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