National Train Day and Mother’s Day at the Danbury Railway Museum

The Danbury Railway Museum has joined in the celebration of National Train Day on Saturday, May 9. At the Danbury Railway Museum this promises to be a day full of educational activities and FREE train rides for the whole family. The fun will begin at 10:00am and end at 4:00pm. Museum admission is $6.00 for adults; $5.00 for seniors; $4.00 for ages 3-12; under 3, free. However, current and former railroad employees will receive free museum admission (proper ID required). Trains will begin running hourly at 10:30 with the last train departing at 2:30.

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The museum’s Rail Yard Local will be operating — a short trip on a vintage train pulled by a 68 year old locomotive, with locomotive cab rides also available. As a National Train Day gift to all the friends of the Danbury Railroad, all train rides will be free on this day! As a special educational treat, periodically during the day, demonstrations of railroad signaling and coupling/uncoupling train cars will take place, and other educational talks will be given. In addition, the historic New Haven Railroad Cedar Hill forge is expected to be operating with a blacksmith making various items, and train riders will have an opportunity to take a spin on the operating turntable, followed by a tour of the water tower pump house.

In the Danbury museum building, visitors can explore railroad history exhibits, operating electric train layouts, static model displays of the station and railyard, many one-of-a-kind artifacts of railroading history, a wonderful gift shop, a coloring table and other children’s activities, and many other items of interest. The museum’s Research Library will hold a used book and model sale with some great bargains. Outside in the historic railyard, guests will find walk-through exhibits, and a vast assortment of train cars and locomotives –
many that ran in Danbury during its railroading heyday.

On Sunday, May 10, the Danbury Railway Museum is offer free rides on the Rail yard local to commemorate –Mother’s Day. Trains will run from 12 noon to 4 p.m.

The Danbury Railway Museum is a non-profit organization, staffed solely by volunteers, and is dedicated to the preservation of, and education about, railroad history. The museum is located in the restored 1903 Danbury Station and rail yard at 120 White Street, Danbury, CT. For further information, visit the Web site at http://www.danburyrail.org, or call the museum at 203-778-8337.

For area information www.litchfieldhills.com

Hidden History of Litchfield Hills at Kent Historical Society

The Kent Historical Society and Kent Memorial Library will present local author and prominent educator Peter Vermilyea as he discusses and signs his new book “Hidden History of Litchfield County” on Sunday, February 8, 2015 at 2:00 p.m. at the Kent Town Hall. In the event of inclement weather, the snow date is Sunday, February 22, 2015 at 2:00 p.m.

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In his book and presentations, Vermilyea uncovers abundant clues all around us, and shares them with audiences and readers throughout the region. His curiosity takes him all over the local landscape, and he constantly turns up instances of history that still linger, if you open your eyes to see them.

Stonewalls and graveyards summon numerous stories from Vermilyea. He points out weed-choked railroad tracks that crisscross the county, in Kent and beyond, and brings our attention to a ruined cinderblock bunker in Warren that was once a crucial radar station during the Cold War. He reminds us of a catastrophic fire that devastated Winsted in 1908, forcing residents to flee the Odd Fellows boardinghouse in fear of their lives. In Bantam, art deco chairs made by the Warren McArthur Corporation were so appealing and comfortable that the War Department ordered bomber seats from the company during World War II. Vermilyea explores these and other juicy tales from the history of Litchfield County, Connecticut.

A resident of Litchfield, Mr. Vermilyea teaches history at Housatonic Valley Regional High School in Falls Village, Connecticut, and at Western Connecticut State University. A graduate of Gettysburg College, he is the director of the student scholarship program at his alma mater’s Civil War Institute. He is a member of the Litchfield Historical Society Board of Directors. He is the author or editor of three books and more than a dozen articles and maintains the Hidden in Plain Sight blog. In fact, the book grew from Vermilyea’s fascinating blog, which can be found at http://www.hiddeninplainsightblog.com. “Hidden History of Litchfield County” boasts five-star reviews on Amazon, with such comments as, “extremely well-written and impressively researched,” and “it is amazing how many remnants of the nation’s past the author has uncovered…”

Vermilyea’s lecture will be particularly geared to Kent and its citizens, but everyone will want to attend. A long-time friend of both the Kent Historical Society and Kent Memorial Library, Vermilyea made ample use of the society’s archives in researching this book. Readers will find a handsome acknowledgement to the Kent Historical Society’s Curator, Marge Smith, on page 8.

His book, “Hidden History of Litchfield County” will be available for purchase at the lecture by local bookstore House of Books. There will be a reception following the presentation. The program is free and open to the public. Donations are suggested and welcome. To register, please call 860-927-4587 or 860-927-3761, email assistant@kenthistoricalsociety.org or kmlinfo@biblio.org or register at the Library at www.kentmemoriallibrary.org and click on the events calendar.

For area information www.litchfieldhills.com

LEGOS AND LIGHTHOUSES BRIGHTEN THE SEASON IN CONNECTICUT

There’s no merrier place to be this season than Fairfield County in Western Connecticut where two of the most original exhibits in New England brighten the season at local museums.

A lavish moving landscape made of a billion LEGO® bricks delights visitors to the Stamford Museum and Nature Center while the 13th annual Festival of Lighthouses contest at the Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk shows off dozens of fabulous new miniature creations.

WIDE WORLD OF LEGOS®

Trains and planes. Cars, tractors and trucks. Ships, shuttles and monorails. Helicopters and spaceships

Just about anything that moves on land, sea, air and space will be seen as colorful LEGO® sculptures, moving through a three-dimensional imaginary landscape at the Billion Bricks 2 exhibit at the Stamford Museum & Nature Center. Everything in the amazing exhibit is made of LEGO blocks.
Master builder Bill Probert & I LUG (LEGO® Users Group) NY return to the Museum Galleries for a sixth season of their popular displays, promising a LEGO world that is even bigger and better this year. The exhibit runs from November 22 to January 25.

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Starting in January, families are invited to make their own LEGO® creations in weekend workshops. Participants on Saturday, January 3 will build and race a LEGO® car while the group on Sunday January 4 will build and fly a Lego helicopter or space ship.

Lights! Camera! Action! Animation Workshops on Saturday and Sunday January 17 and 18 for ages 10 and up will be led by Alex Kobbs, of KooberzStudios. Kobbs will teach techniques for film stop action animation using LEGO® creations and mini figures.

Workshops are limited in size and advance reservations are required. Phone 203-977-6521 to register and see www.stamfordmuseum.org for more information.

LIGHTHOUSES LIGHT UP THE SEASON

Some are funny. Some are clever. Some are beautiful.

For the 13th year, artists and would-be-artists will compete for the most original entry in the Festival of Lighthouses at the Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk from November 22 through January. 19.

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The rules are simple. Entries must be three to six feet tall and have a working light. They may not include animal remains such as shells. Beyond that, it’s up to the creators’ imaginations and the results are guaranteed to amaze. Past entries have been made of stained glass, stone, yarn, clay, candy and tiny coffee cups. One entry was made of holiday greeting cards, another included computer animation. One memorable entry featured all the makings of the 12 days of Christmas.

This year’s exhibit will showcase 24 lighthouses and there is no telling what the creative results will be. Aquarium visitors will follow these one-of-a-kind beacons through the galleries and then cast a vote for their favorite. The winner takes home the $1,500 first prize. Runner-ups divide the rest of the $3300 in prize money. To learn more, see www.maritimeaquarium.org.

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For more information about holiday events and a free copy of Unwind, a full-color, 152-page booklet detailing what to do and see, and where to stay, shop and dine in Fairfield County as well as in the Litchfield Hills, contact the Western Connecticut Visitors Bureau, PO Box 968, Litchfield, CT 06759, (860) 567-4506, or visit their web site at www.visitwesternct.com.

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THREE TOP FALL FESTIVALS LURE FOOD LOVERS TO WESTERN CONNECTICUT

The aroma of steaming chowder, the tantalizing scent of garlic, and the chance to sample the best specialties of Iceland await autumn visitors to Western Connecticut, home to three of the season’s top food festivals.

Chowdafest, New England’s largest cooking competition, will be held at Norwalk’s Calf Pasture Beach on October 12, a new location spacious enough to accommodate the growing fan base, while another popular event, the tenth annual Connecticut Garlic & Harvest Festival takes place October 11-12, 2014 at the Bethlehem Fairgrounds. The following Saturday, October 18, the fifth annual Iceland Affair and Fire and Ice Music Festival once again will bring fans to Winchester, CT. for a rare treat, one of only two such festivals in the United States.

YOU ARE THE JUDGE AT CHOWDAFEST

At this SOUPerbowl of festivals to benefit the Connecticut Food Bank, attendees are the judges as more than two dozen of the regions best restaurants compete in four categories: classic New England Clam Chowder, Traditional Manhattan and Rhode Island chowders, “creative” chowders that might be anything from sweet potato to Cajun shrimp, and bisque soups such as Butternut Squash and Golden Corn. Everyone receives a spoon, pencil and ballot and can sample unlimited chowder and soups, grading entries on a scale from 7 to 10. Winners are announced at the end of the event.

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For tasting variety, samples are offered at the Cheese and Cracker Corner, at ChowdaMex featuring salsas and chips and at a beverage center stocked with beer and wine. The ChowdaKIDS area will provide samples of ice cream and milk as well as free chef hats, coloring books and stickers provided by Stop & Shop, the event sponsor.

Admission is $10 in advance for adults, $15 at the door on October 11. Ages 6 to 12 pay $5, children under 6 are free. Hours are 12 noon to 4 p.m. Proceeds from this food festival to fight hunger have provided over 100,000 meals for the CT Food Bank. For information, see www.chowdafest.org

GARLIC IN ITS GLORY

Foodies flock each year to the Connecticut Garlic & Harvest Festival where they enjoy cooking demonstrations, informative food talks, lessons in growing garlic, plus free samplings of garlic dips, spreads, cheeses and oils from specialty food vendors. Visitors can buy farm-fresh garlic as well as other bounty from the fall harvest. All of that is the warm-up for some serious eating that includes treats like homemade roasted garlic sausage with peppers and onions, garlic marinated steak sandwiches, garlic roast pork sandwiches, deep fried garlic, and even garlic ice cream.

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Live bands add to the festive feel, fine artisans are on hand offering hand made crafts and young visitors will find rides and games to keep them entertained.

The Garlic Festival will be held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday October 11 and 12
at the Bethlehem Fairgrounds, Route 61 just north of town. Adult admission is $7, under age 12, just $1. Find more details at www.garlicfestct.com

TAKE A TRIP TO ICELAND

One woman’s love affair with Iceland was the spark that began this unusual festival. Gerri Griswold, a former chef and current broadcaster, visited the “land of fire and ice” and fell in love.
She has made over a dozen trips to Iceland since 2002 and in 2009, decided to introduce more Americans to their northern neighbor in what she thought would be a one-time event in her home town. Instead, the Iceland Affair keeps growing. At this year’s fifth edition at Winchester Center’s Grange Hall visitors will hear experts talk about Iceland’s arts and amazing nature, see prize photography of the land’s lavish geysers and waterfalls, and will be able to sample authentic Icelandic foods such as goat sausage, smoked and dried fish, sensational chocolates and licorice, the special local yogurt known as skyr, pure Icelandic water, and what Griswold calls the best hot dogs in the world.

On the Winchester Center Green the public will meet Iceland’s biologically pure animals including Icelandic horses, sheep, sheep dogs, and chickens. The event will be held on October 18 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. All the day’s activities are free.

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At night, the original small concert in a barn has morphed into the Fire & Ice Festival, to be held this year at Infinity Hall in Norfolk at 8 p.m. Those attending will hear a host of top entertainers rarely seen in this country, and, perhaps discover the next Bjork, Iceland’s best known performer in the U.S.. For details on the festival and information on concert tickets, see http://icelandaffair.com or phone 860-307-6144.

For more information about lodging and other activities in the area and a free copy of UNWIND, a full-color, 152-page booklet detailing what to do and see, and where to stay, shop and dine in Fairfield County and the Litchfield Hills of Western Connecticut, contact the Western Connecticut Visitors Bureau, PO Box 968, Litchfield, CT 06759, (860) 567-4506, or visit their web site at www.visitwesternct.com

THE BEST FOLIAGE TOWN IN NEW ENGLAND? YANKEE MAGAZINE PICKS KENT, CONNECTICUT

Kent, Connecticut has many claims to fame—two state parks, a 250-foot waterfall, rural beauty combined with sophisticated shops, galleries and museums.  But this fall there is new reason to boast.  Yankee Magazine has named this charming village in the Litchfield Hills of Western Connecticut the peak spot for leaf-peeping in all of New England.

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In one day in Kent, says Yankee, you can drive through rolling hills beside a twisting river, stop for thick hot chocolate and an pastry, hike the Appalachian trail, picnic with a panini by a waterfall, shop for Buddhas or modern art and bite into a crisp native Cortland apple, perhaps in the shade of a historic covered bridge.

This praise is no surprise to those who know Kent and its unique blend of attractions.  A newly published free color brochure with map will help newcomers find their way around.

Foliage watchers who like their leaves close-up on a hiking trail should head for Macedonia Brook State Park, where 2300 acres offer extensive leafy trails.  For views, the Blue Trail is hard to beat with its fantastic vistas of the Catskill and Taconic mountains.

In Kent Falls State Park you can admire the falls from the bottom or hike a quarter-mile up the hill and feel the mist on your face as the water cascades down 250 feet on its way to join the Housatonic River.

The Appalachian Trail runs through this area, and hikers who want scenery without stress will enjoy the Housatonic “river walk,” a peaceful stretch beside the river that is the longest essentially flat section along the entire trail.

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For more worldly diversions, take a walk along Route 7, Kent’s Main Street, lined for miles with irresistible stops.  Five antiques shops beckon, including Pauline’s Place and Koblenz & Co., known for their antique jewelry.  Among the many shops and galleries, Heron American Craft Gallery shows the best work of American craftsmen, Foreign Cargo offers unusual clothing, jewelry and art from Africa, Asia and the Pacific Islands and the Kent Art Association is just one of five fine art galleries in town.

Take out the camera for Bulls’ Bridge, one of three remaining covered bridges in Connecticut dating from the 19th century.  George Washington crossed the Housatonic River near the site of the present bridge in 1781.

Just north of town is the Sloane-Stanley Museum.  Eric Sloane (1905-1985) was a prolific artist, author and illustrator and an avid collector of Americana. The museum includes the artist’s studio, examples of his art and his extensive collection of early American handmade tools, beautiful objects of wood that are virtual works of art.  On the property are the remains of the Kent Iron Furnace and a diorama explaining the once-booming local iron industry.  Next-door is the Connecticut Antique Machinery Association Museum, a unique display of steam and gas tractors, a working narrow gauge railroad, an industrial hall with working steam engines and mining exhibit building.

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When hunger pangs strike in Kent, the Panini Café is the place for a tasty picnic sandwich, and for a treat the Kent coffee and Chocolate Company offers the “best hot chocolate in Connecticut.”  For dinner, the Fife & Drum is a long time favorite for continental dinners with nightly music, Bull’s Bridge Inn has a choice of fine dining or pub fare, and Doc’s Trattoria serves excellent Italian fare and has a pleasant patio for fine fall days.

For a copy of the new free guide and map of Kent and a free copy of UNWIND, a 163-page color guide to lodging and dining and other regional attractions in all of the Litchfield Hills contact the Western Connecticut Visitors Bureau, PO Box 968, Litchfield, CT 06759, (860) 567-4506, www.litchfieldhills.com.

Heavens Above! Star Gazing is a Thrill for All

They are seeing stars in Western Connecticut—not to mention planets and galaxies. The opportunity to view the heavens close up though a professional telescope is a rare treat, and Fairfield County in Western Connecticut is lucky enough to have four observatories that invite the public to share the thrill of star-gazing. Experts are on hand to guide beginners and viewing should be prime on the clear autumn nights ahead.

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The Stamford Observatory

The Stamford Observatory at the Stamford Museum and Nature Center, a research facility used by members of the Fairfield County Astronomical Society, is open to all every Friday night from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m., weather permitting. The Observatory’s 22-inch research telescope is better than ever, thanks to recent updating with state of the art high precision components. When visitors spot the moon, planets or deep space objects, computer controls automatically prompt the telescope to zoom in on the object.

On specially scheduled Astronomy Nights, informative talks on the planets and galaxies are presented before the viewing hours. These lively programs are suitable for children ages 5 and up as well as for adults.
The Observatory is located behind the Hecksher Farm off Scofieldtown Road. Viewers enter at 151 Scofieldtown Road. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for children. For more information, see http://www.stamfordmuseum.org/observatory.html or phone 203-322-1646.

Rolnick Observatory, Westport

The Westport Astronomical Society has its own long-running program for visitors. The domed Rolnick Observatory houses a 12.5-inch Newtonian telescope. On a moonless night when visibility is prime, the portable 25-inch Obsession telescope, the largest available to the public in Connecticut, is brought outdoors. The program at 182 Bayberry Lane is free to the public every clear Wednesday from 8 to 10 p.m. See details at was-ct.org, or phone 203-293-8759.

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Westside Observatory, Danbury

Westside Observatory, located atop a five-acre hill on the Westside Campus of Western Connecticut State University, is dedicated to astrophysical research by students and faculty. The observatory’s 20-inch Ritchey-Chrétien reflector telescope is equipped with a computer-controlled pointing and tracking system as well as a powerful CCD camera that takes multi-color digital images of planets, faint stars and other deep-sky objects. The University also has its own planetarium. Free public viewing nights are scheduled regularly depending on weather conditions, but planetarium shows go on rain or shine. The one-hour shows are not recommended for younger children. Schedules are posted at https://www.wcsu.edu/starwatch.

Bowman Observatory, Greenwich

A new 16-inch telescope is being installed by the Astronomical Society of Greenwich at the Bowman Observatory, with the reopening scheduled for sometime this fall. Check the website, seocom.com/asg or phone 203-413-6762 for exact fall viewing dates, usually the second and fourth Tuesdays each month.