Durham Fair Week

September 24, 2018


By: Larry McHugh


Welcome to Durham Fair week in Middlesex County!


The 99th Annual Durham Fair will be held on the famous Durham Fairgrounds beginning this Thursday, September 27. As I have noted many times, we are very lucky to have this large-scale, all-volunteer-run agricultural event right here in Middlesex County. The Durham Fair, which remains the largest fair in the state of Connecticut, continues to provide four terrific days of good, clean wholesome fun.


It kicks off Thursday with an antique farm equipment demo, Cheese Making, Demolition Derby, and outstanding entertainment from a number of country musicians. Friday, Saturday and Sunday feature full days of events and activities, including entertainment headliners like Melissa Etheridge, Scotty McCreery, a USO Show Troupe Show, monster truck rallies, livestock barns featuring prize-winning animals, the educational discovery tent, arts and crafts, rides and games on the midway, the CT Craft Beer & Cider Tasting, and a number of outstanding shopping and culinary options.


The Durham Fair, which began in 1916, is one of the largest fairs in North America managed entirely by unpaid volunteers. It attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors to our region every September and we are so proud that it calls Middlesex County home. The fair recently received the Connecticut Governor’s Tourism Volunteer of the Year Award for being a 100-percent volunteer-led event which invests many of its profits back into the community. It was also once again named Best Country Fair by Connecticut Magazine, something we have all known for many years.


I am very proud of Durham Fair Association President Dan Miramant, Marketing Coordinator Debbie Huscher who spoke about the fair at last week’s chamber Member Breakfast, and the entire committed team of volunteers who have been hard at work preparing for this year’s fair. Gearing up for its 100th edition next year, the fair was established in 1916, but no fairs were held in 1938 because of a hurricane that hit the area, and during the

World War II years of 1942, 1943, and 1944. I am also proud that Sunday has been designated as military appreciation day, and all active duty U.S. military personnel and veterans will receive free admission to the fair. The chamber will continue to be right there with Dan and his team as they steamroll through their first 100 years. For more information on the 2018 Durham Fair, please visit www.durhamfair.com. See you on the Fairgrounds!


In addition to the many activities on the fairgrounds, this week also features a number of other important meetings and events.


September’s Business After Work networking reception, rescheduled from September 12, will be held aboard the Lady Katharine Cruise Boat, “Mystique” this evening, September 24, on the Connecticut River. “Mystique” is docked at Harbor Park, 80 Harbor Drive in Middletown. Members can board the boat at 5 p.m. and network while docked until 6:00 p.m. At approximately 6:00 p.m., the Mystique will take a trip down river and will return at the close of the Business After Work at 7:00 p.m. This event, as all of our Business After Work events do, will feature a terrific spread of food and drink and of course, the best networking around. The visit to the “Mystique” is for key employees of chamber members only. On behalf of the chamber, I want to once again thank the owner of Lady Katharine Cruises, Essex Steam Train and Riverboat, for hosting this event and for their strong support of our chamber. Kevin Dodd and his team continue to do great work throughout the region and the state.


The chamber’s Westbrook Division will meet on Tuesday morning at The Captain Stannard House, a terrific Bed and Breakfast establishment and longtime member of our chamber. This is the Westbrook Division’s first meeting since its summer hiatus, and we look forward to hearing an update from Estuary Transit District Executive Director Joe Comerford as well as other town and local business officials. Our Haddam and East Haddam Division meets on Thursday morning at The Saybrook at Haddam. Another longtime chamber member and supporter, the Saybrook at Haddam provides gracious retirement living, assisted living, and memory care services to residents. We look forward to welcoming Joe to this meeting as well, as he will provide our groups with an update on the new public transit options available through the Nine Town Transit System. As I have noted many times, our divisions continue to play a critical role in our organization.


Tuesday afternoon features a meeting of the chief executives of the eight metro chambers of commerce in the State of Connecticut. The eight metro chambers, which make up a working group designed to collaborate on a number of important business issues, meet regularly at different locations throughout the state. I look forward to another productive meeting with my fellow Connecticut chamber executives who all work hard every day in support of the business community.


A MEWS+ hosted Innovation Meet-Up is scheduled for Wednesday evening at the chamber office in Middletown. The chamber recently converted the second floor of its Main Street facility into a co-working space for use by our region's entrepreneurial community. As a co-working initiative, it provides not only a place to work, but also a collaborative working environment. This initiative is designed to be a resource for freelancers, start-up businesses and small businesses, and the Wesleyan University community. The Meet-Up event on Wednesday will feature a presentation of the Launch EZ platform which is working to connect Connecticut’s startup and entrepreneurial community. We also look forward to networking with local entrepreneurs and high growth companies, a business card raffle, food and drinks, and more. Wednesday’s Meet-Up will begin at 5:00 p.m. For more information on MEWS+ options, rates and content, please contact Jeff Pugliese in the chamber office.


Also on Wednesday evening, a busy night for downtown, Kidcity Children’s Museum will host a 20th Anniversary Celebration at its Washington Street location. I look forward to attending the event and am honored to have been asked to say a few words. Kidcity is a homegrown non-profit organization that started in 1994 with Jen Alexander’s plan to open a children’s museum in Middletown. It has been providing educational, fun opportunities for children and parents ever since it opened in 1998. I congratulate Jen, and her team, on 20 terrific years, and many more to come!


On Thursday evening, I have the honor of attending and speaking at the Middlesex County NAACP Branch 33rd Freedom Fund Dinner at the Elks Lodge in Middletown. I am very proud that the Middlesex County NAACP Branch gives an annual business award that bears my name, and I enjoy presenting the award every year at this important event. I am proud to announce that this year’s recipient is Middlesex Hospital. Middlesex Hospital offers a comprehensive spectrum of locally-based hospital services in a wide range of specialties. It is not only a world class healthcare operation in Middlesex County, it is a major employer and a strong supporter of the Middlesex Community. I thank CEO Vin Capece and his team for their continued good work on so many fronts, and look forward to celebrating with them on Thursday night.


Before closing this week’s column, I want to congratulate my friend Marty Knight who recently had a specially installed park bench named for him on the South Green in Middletown. The official dedication of the bench will be held this Thursday morning at 11:00 a.m. This is in honor of Marty’s longtime and dedicated service to the Middletown Lions Club and the Middletown community. Marty Knight, who is blind, is an inspiration to everyone, not just those with disabilities. He has dedicated himself to community service for many years, and has always maintained a positive attitude and warm personality along the way. I thank Marty for his friendship and his support of our community. He really is one of the best.


I am afraid I must close this week’s column on a sad note after the recent passing of Susan (Brown) DeRing at the age of 74. Sue was a longtime resident of the Town of Portland and co-founded Young Horizon's Day Care Center in Higganum in 1982 along with Dianna Peterson. She was a caring person and supported a number of community initiatives along the way including the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce. Sue’s family has also supported the chamber in a variety of ways over the years, and we appreciate it very much. Our thoughts and prayers are with all of them at this difficult time. Susan DeRing will be missed by many.


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