OPINION: Celebrating our town and our love for it

By Stephen Knight

There is only one topic worthy of discussion this week, and it’s the one that should be on the mind of every resident of Wallingford: The fabulous weeklong 350+2 Jubilee Celebration. The deadline for this column is Thursday, so there are two more days of festivities yet to come as I write this, but already we can all see that it is a huge success and that many thousands of us are celebrating our town and our love for it.

Anyone that reads this newspaper knows that this week is chock full of events, and there has been something of interest for everyone. The grand kickoff event, of course, was the Parade last Saturday afternoon.

I had the honor of walking with the125 Spanish Community of Wallingford (SCOW) participants. Our contingent was led off by Everardo Lopez demonstrating his considerable cowhand rope-handling skills, and included all our beautiful staff members, some board members, a dozen or two very energetic dancers in beautiful dresses, followed by a Mariachi band, more dancers and students carrying the flags of all the Latin American and Caribbean countries from which our Hispanic neighbors have come.

The figures I read indicate that there were almost 2,000 people in the parade. Bands came from as far away as Philadelphia, and there were groups representing every aspect of Wallingford life. As a participant, I saw up close just how well this enormous undertaking was organized. It started pretty much on time at Moses Y. Beach School on North Main Street, and moved steadily with few interruptions to Lyman Hall High School on Pond Hill Road. Masterful preparation and execution.

There were people lining both sides of the parade route throughout the entire two-plus miles. Smiles, waves and cheers by so many of our neighbors clearly showed the wonderful special spirit that permeates this community. What an afternoon.

While they will be the first ones to say that the 350+2 Jubilee is the work of hundreds of volunteers and the generosity of others, most especially the Ulbrich company and family, co-chairs of the entire enterprise, Bob Devaney and Christine Mansfield, must be heralded for the creative effort and organization talent that made this Jubilee such a success.

While these two people have extensive resumes listing multiple volunteer contributions to our town that would be deserving of a full comment in of themselves, it is their effort on all of our behalf that must be noted today.

Bob and Christine were appointed by Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. in 2015, and each of them has volunteered (literally) thousands of hours of their time since then — perhaps many more than they could possibly have anticipated when they accepted the assignment. I say that because, as we all know, Covid-19 forced them to postpone this enormous event both in 2020 and again in 2021.

Despite these very frustrating disruptions, these two special individuals and their large team of volunteers have surmounted every obstacle and never allowed their optimism to waver throughout this seven-year assignment. There must have been times when they thought that the event gods had it in for them due to having to weather not one but two postponements, but they pushed on with good humor and the kind of can-do/WILL-do spirit that characterizes how they approach every challenge.

I have had the fortune to live in the town of Wallingford, Connecticut, for over thirty-five years. My wife Cathy and I have lived in a combined dozen communities in this state. It must have been all of three weeks of arriving here when we began to realize what a very special place we had moved into. We both have had hundreds of experiences since that have only underscored and strengthened that opinion.

But this week tops it all. Thank you to all those hundreds of people in dozens of organizations that worked so hard to bring off this extravaganza. You have wildly exceeded yourselves. On behalf of every resident of Wallingford, we thank you for providing us a week of celebrations that have brought us closer together and given us a boost of optimism in a time where such spirit seems hard to find.

Congratulations, Bob and Christine. Well, well done!

Stephen Knight is a former Wallingford town councilor.


More From This Section