Winter Weekend in Norfolk Feb. 24-25

It’s the perfect winter celebration: outdoor sports; a restaurant crawl and a pancake breakfast; concerts and art shows; kids’ activities, tours and open houses, ice carving and much more will be featured during Norfolk’s first WINter Weekend, Saturday and Sunday, February 24 and 25. What’s even better, most of the events are free.

Event Highlights
The Norfolk volunteer fire department will sell fried dough and coffee during the ambulance squad’s ice-carving event, and will man a fire pit at Infinity Bistro for hot cocoa and S’mores. The Botelle School parent/teacher organization will serve refreshments and host kids’ games at the newly revived town ice skating rink. Cocoa will be available at the North Brook rail trail during a snowshoeing event sponsored by the Rails to Trails committee.

Revelers won’t go hungry. Norfolk Net has organized a restaurant crawl late Saturday afternoon at the town’s four restaurants and the Manor House Inn. The Immaculate Conception Church will host a free pancake breakfast on Sunday. And of course, sit-down meals will be readily available at almost any time of day.

Interested in sports? There will be plenty—skating on the town rink, cross-country skiing on one of Norfolk’s many trails, snowshoeing on the North Brook Trail (the committee has snowshoes to lend if you can’t bring your own) and sledding for all ages on the hill behind the Congregational Church on the green (bring your own sled). If you’re not into the outdoors, you can watch Olympic curling on TV and live action at a local club tournament during the Norfolk Curling Club’s open houses.

Music and art will be strongly represented. The Ryan Montbleau Band will perform at Infinity Hall Saturday night. On Sunday, Steve Dedman will be in the Bistro live, and Green River will be featured Friday night for those who arrive in Norfolk early. For classical music lovers, the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival is sponsoring a performance by the Magari Quintet in the library on Saturday afternoon and offers the audience the opportunity to ask questions and discuss the music. As for art, there are shows by painters Tom Hlas and Alicia Mordenti, and work by 19th-century photographer Marie Kendall will be on display at the Norfolk Historical Society’s museum.

The library will host Magnificent Microscopes on Saturday morning, and the Norfolk Land Trust’s talk by “bear whisperer” Ben Kilham will be in the afternoon. The hands-on microscope session is intended primarily for kids, but the bear talk is for everyone.

To see a full schedule of events and times, go to http://weekendinnorfolk.org/ or call 860-542-5829. For updates, follow Weekend in Norfolk on Facebook. And save the date: our annual Weekend in Norfolk is coming up August 3, 4 and 5…save the first weekend in August for three days of summer fun.

See Majestic Eagles Swoop, Glide, Dip, and Dive At Annual Eagle Watch In the Litchfield Hills

An outdoor buffet in winter may not sound tempting to most of us, but to our national bird, the regal American bald eagle, it is a rare treat. When fishing grounds in their homes further north freeze over, these graceful birds make an annual journey to the Shepaug Dam on the Housatonic River in Southbury, in Connecticut’s Litchfield Hills.

They favor this spot because the turbulent waters of the dam not only prevent freezing, but push fish to the surface, easy pickings for eagles who can swoop down and feast on their favorite dish. Thrilling to see in full flight, the majestic bald eagle can measure 34 to 43 inches in length with a wingspan of six to seven and a half feet.

Their flight speed is between 36 to 44 miles per hour. Everyone is invited to view these fascinating winter guests at the Eagle Observation Area near the Shepaug Housatonic Hydroelectric Station. An organized eagle watch takes place every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. through March 12.

Admission is free but since space is limited reservations are required; group and individual reservations are accepted. In addition to eagle viewing,the CT Audubon will host a birds of Prey show on Saturdays throughout the viewing season. This year for the first time reservations can be made on-line

The shelter, maintained by FirstLight Power Resources, is located 1000 feet from the river, affording safety for the eagles while providing an excellent vantage point. High powered telescopes are set up on tripods for visitors. Knowledgeable Audubon volunteers are on hand to assist in spotting and answer questions about the birds.

The volunteers maintain a helpful website, http://shepaugeagles.com, with information about eagles and recent visitor statistics. Reservations can be made on this site. Nearly 148,000 people have visited the observation area since it was opened to the public in 1986. On an average day in past years, six or seven eagles were sighted, but lucky viewers on the best days in the past have spotted as many as 15 to 21 eagles in action. Chances are best on cold clear days when the surfaces of most other rivers and ponds have frozen. Visitors are advised to dress warmly in layers and to allow plenty of time to wait for the eagle action to begin.

The Curious Case of Ed Vebel @ Westport Historical Society

Meet Ed Vebell. He is 96, a nonagenarian, and he’s probably lived a more interesting life than you have. Like most of your older relatives Ed has stories to tell, but his span the globe, span time, and span famous events and his work will be presented at the Westport Historical Society through April 28, 2018.

It may sound cliché but it all started when Ed was shipped off to war. Ed nearly started out as an aircraft gunner, an occupation with a notoriously short lifespan, but when his superiors were alerted to his artistic ability he was quickly transferred to the US Army’s military newspaper, Stars and Stripes, as a field illustrator. As it turns out, illustrating battles was only the beginning of a decade’s long journey through odd, extraordinary and potentially lethal experiences.

Mr. Vebell spent years overseas in exotic places like Morocco and the cabarets of Paris. His decades as an illustrator, for publications like Sports Illustrated and Reader’s Digest,connected him with a cavalcade of characters including Grace Kelly and Matisse. Oh, and did we mention he also competed at the 1952  Olympics in fencing?

Like any traveler he collected some souvenirs along the way. A century gives you opportunities to acquire interesting life experiences and trinkets; only Ed’s trinkets aren’t the knick knacks you find in grandma’s attic but treasures like Buffalo Bill’s hat and a spear from the Maasai, an African lion hunter tribe.

Join us and become immersed in the life of arguably Westport’s most interesting man, and be sure to look for Ed’s recently published book “An Artist at War”. Signed copies will be available for sale at the exhibit opening and in our gift shop.

The Curious Case of Ed Vebell, runs through April 28 @ Westport Historical Society, 25 Avery Place across from Town Hall.  Donations Accepted, For more information call 203-222-1424 or vistiwestporthistory.org

The Magic of Native American Courting Flutes

The Institute of American Indian Studies in Washington has a perfectly unique way to top off Valentine’s Day week. On Saturday, February 17 from 1:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m., Ojibway artist, and musician Allan Madahbee will explain the cultural significance and the hauntingly beautiful sound of the Native American courting flute. In Native American culture, the flute is deeply rooted in the traditional Eastern Woodland Indian traditions as well as in the culture of indigenous peoples of the Americas.

Traditional Native American flutes are known by several names, one of the most common being the courting flute. As the name suggests, the courting flute was played during courting rituals by a young man serenading his intended bride. Courting was not a private affair, and this formal ritual normally took place in front of the entire tribe. It is said that once the young man and young woman were joined together, she would break the flute in half so he would never play it for anyone else. This is why some tribes do not allow, or at least discourage females from playing these sacred flutes.

Today, makers of Native American Flutes like Ojibway artist and musician Allan Madahbee craft their personal style and sound into their creations. Madahbee began to research the Chippewa flute culture and was influenced and mentored by Joseph Firecrow of the Cheyenne nation. “We became friends and he provided guidance and feedback and explained some of his methods of flute making. With his passing last year, we have all lost a great Native American flute maker and musician. I am proud to continue our flute making traditions.” The sound of the courting flute that is usually made of cedar has an uncommon scale for Western music and is entrancing.

Born on the shores of Lake Huron, Allan Madahbee is a registered Ojibway (Chippewa) Indian that has pursued the traditional arts and crafts of his ancestors. He has been making Native American flutes for about ten years. “I had always thought they were a product of the Southwest Indian tribes, but a book that I found that was written during the 1800s about Chippewa culture, had a passage about the Chippewa flutes, along with pictures. This made me realize that they were indeed a part of my Chippewa culture. Knowing that my ancestors constructed these flutes for hundreds of years has inspired me to continue this tradition. Also, the haunting sound from these mystical instruments is a large part of my inspiration.”

Along with constructing Woodland flutes, beaded moccasins, woodcarvings, Native American regalia, and rock sculptures, Madahbee always returns to his artistic roots in paintings. Mainly self-taught, Madahbee had high school art courses with fellow Ojibway artists Blake Debassige and James Simon – two well known Anishnawbe artists that are respected and have their paintings displayed around the globe.

Space is limited and reservations are suggested. To make sure you get a spot call the Institute for American Indian Studies at (860) 868-0518 or email general@iaismuseum.org to reserve your spot. The program is included in the price of admission: $10 adults; $8 seniors; $6 children; IAIS Members free.

The Legacy of Wisdom Wednesday- Native American Sayings

“The Great Spirit is in all things, he is in the air we breathe. The Great Spirit is our Father, but the Earth is our Mother. She nourishes us, that which we put into the ground she returns to us…” – Big Thunder (Bedagi) Wabanaki Algonquin

Native American wisdom is something that resonates with many people. In years gone by, Native Americans passed down their history and sayings orally from generation to generation as a guidebook for a way of life that honored and respected all living things.

As Native American culture in Connecticut grew and evolved so did the art of storytelling and wise sayings. These were used as tools to pass down traditions, local customs, hunting and gardening skills, family and child-rearing traditions and courting rituals. In essence, these stories and sayings helped connect them to each other and to the land where they made their home.

An Important Legacy

Through their stories and sayings, Native Americans shared and preserved the memory and traditions of their ancestors. These became an integral part of the legacy passed on to future generations.

Today, remembering and sharing this wisdom is one way to keep the cultural traditions of Native Americans alive. It gives us a glimpse into this rich cultural heritage and into the past of our great nation.

Every Wednesday, the Institute for Native American Studies in Washington will share a saying on their FaceBook page with a “Wisdom Wednesday” posting to inspire you with the wisdom of those that have gone before us.

About The Institute for American Indian Studies

The Institute for American Indian Studies preserves and educates through discovery and creativity the diverse traditions, vitality, and knowledge of Native American cultures. Through archaeology, the IAIS is able to build new understandings of the world and history of Native Americans, the focus is on stewardship and preservation. This is achieved through workshops, special events, and education for students of all ages.

Located on 15 woodland acres the IAIS has an outdoor Three Sisters and Healing Plants Gardens as well as a replicated 16th c. Algonkian Village. Inside the museum, authentic artifacts are displayed in permanent, semi-permanent and temporary exhibits from prehistory to the present that allows visitors a walk through time.

The Institute for American Indian Studies is located on 38 Curtis Road in Washington Connecticut and can be reached online or by calling 860-868-0518.

Tiger Cub Live Cam @ Beardsley Zoo

The two rare Amur or Siberian tiger cubs were born in November at the Beardsley Zoo in Bridgeport have received worldwide attention. Unfortunately, the Tiger cubs, Reka and Zaya are too young to be viewed by the public, however, Blue Buffalo has sponsored a live streaming webcam in their nursery!

The webcam offers animal lovers a close-up view of these two stripped sweethearts at play from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. Watching the live feed also gives the public a chance to see how hard the zoo staff is working to care for these little ladies that are genetically so important to sustaining their breed.

The Beardsley Zoo is an accredited zoo that does much more than just display animals. Accredited Zoos play an important role in conservation, saving animals and breeding them that are on the verge of extinction in the wild, like Amur Tigers.

In the wild, Amur Tigers are critically endangered due to poaching and the change in their habitat. Reka and Zaya will help keep the genetic pool diverse so these new arrivals are very important overall to this rare and beautiful species.

In late spring, the Beardsley Zoo will move the tiger cubs to a new tiger exhibit where the public can actually watch them frolic… but for now get ready to ohhhhhh and awwwww when watching the webcam!

The Power of Native American Traditional Healing

To celebrate and honor the knowledge of plants and herbs used by Native Americans the Institute for American Indian Studies in Washington Connecticut has decided to launch “Medicinal Monday” on the Institute for American Indian Studies’ Facebook Page. Make sure to follow the page (like and share it too!) to find out how plants and herbs have been used for thousands of years.

The interconnection of all creation is the foundation of the culture of Native Americans, and this is reflected in the way that they tried to heal the sick. They practiced the healing arts in a way that not only included the plants that surrounded them but also by trying the heal the entire person, mind, body, and spirit. There is a long tradition of Native American healers using indigenous plants for a wide variety of medicinal purposes with applications as diverse as there are tribes that use them.

In Connecticut long before the first contact with European settlers, Native Americans were using herbal remedies to heal members of their tribe. Their vast knowledge of herbs and plants came from observing wildlife in the woodlands that surrounded them. They watched what deer, elk, and bears ate when they were sick and experimented with those herbs and plants to see if they would cure them as well.

Plants were carefully studied by Native Americans over thousands of years, and through information passed down from generation to generation, they had a huge knowledge base of how to use plants and herbs, that amazed the early Europeans. Tobacco, for example, was used in healing numerous conditions and was also used in rituals and ceremonies. Sage was used for stomach problems, witch hazel was used to treat sore muscles, cuts, and insect bites, dandelions were made into a tea that was drunk as a general health tonic and juniper berries and pine needles cured scurvy.

There are hundreds of herbs and plants that were used by Native Americans to heal both mind and body that were adopted by the first settlers to Connecticut. Today, many modern medicines are based on plants and herbs that were used for thousands of years by Native Americans. As a matter of fact, more than 200 botanicals derived originally from Native Americans have been or are still in use by pharmaceuticals.

About The Institute for American Indian Studies

The Institute for American Indian Studies preserves and educates through discovery and creativity the diverse traditions, vitality, and knowledge of Native American cultures. Through archaeology, the IAIS is able to build new understandings of the world and history of Native Americans, the focus is on stewardship and preservation. This is achieved through workshops, special events, and education for students of all ages.

Located on 15 woodland acres the IAIS has an outdoor Three Sisters and Healing Plants Gardens as well as a replicated 16th c. Algonkian Village. Inside the museum, authentic artifacts are displayed in permanent, semi-permanent and temporary exhibits from prehistory to the present that allows visitors a walk through time.

The Institute for American Indian Studies is located on 38 Curtis Road in Washington Connecticut and can be reached online or by calling 860-868-0518.