Bethel Bids Adieu To 2011
Bethel Bids Adieu To 2011
Looking back at 2011 the year began with a bang, literally, with a roof collapse at one of Bethel’s commercial buildings at Francis J. Clarke Industrial Park that forced businesses to relocate.
In February Bethel schools canceled the winter break due to having too many snow days. The Friends of the Bethel Public Library donated $25,000 to the library’s Capital Campaign. Most of the money was raised through the Friends’ book sales.
March came in like a lion with major flooding disrupting train service when the tracks were left dangling after the rain washed away the ground below. The train track’s support system along Route 53 caved in after heavy rains and commuters were forced to use bus service for the week while the tracks were repaired.
Police were kept busy with a rash of car break-ins along Tremont Avenue, Grassy Plain Street and Melillo Avenue. Volunteer firefighters were also busy, extinguishing a fire at 255 Greenwood Ave., which was “most likely cause by a discarded cigarette,” according to Fire Marshal Thomas Galliford.
April had many Bethelites in an uproar over the Board of Finance’s decision to cut nearly $93,000 out of the original Board of Finance approved budget, including Meals on Wheels. Residents began their own collection and fought to have the program reinstated.
May brought news of a new downtown Farmers Market on the Municipal Center lawn. First Selectman Matthew Knickerbocker said in his May 2011 newsletter: “Establishing a regular shopping pattern will boost visits to our historic village area, and I believe will help bring new retail businesses to our town.
The month of May closed with the popular Memorial Day Parade. School bands, veterans, businesses, scout troops and many more marched from The Sycamore restaurant, up to P.T. Barnum Square and ended up on the lawn of the Municipal Center. For video of the parade from Bethel Buzz please click here. Visit http://www.YouTube.com and search “BethelBuzzAroundTown” for more videos of the parade and many more Bethel events.
A very rainy Relay For Life in June brought hundreds in attendance “Hope” as they rallied round the Municipal Center lawn to raise thousands of dollars for the American Cancer Society. Teams sold unique and fun prizes, high school students performed, survivors shared their stories and the Mizz Relay contest had cross-dressers out in full force.
July and August had downtown hopping with the new farmer’s market on Thursdays, and also a brand new 6-week free children’s concert series started by Ultra Violet Productions, with the support of local business owners. Each Wednesday, children enjoyed free puppet shows, kid’s karaoke, and fun with the bubble machine and free crafts. Sponsors set up their booths on the lawn of the Municipal Center and families enjoyed this free privately sponsored event.
At the end of August Bethel had two serious bouts with Mother Nature. The glass doors of the veterans’ display cases in the hallway of the Bethel Municipal Center rattled and the whole building shook, town employees said, after they felt the effects of a 5.8 magnitude earthquake in Virginia. Round two’s Mother Nature/Bethel brawl hit a little bit harder, with Hurricane Irene wreaking havoc on our tiny town, knocking out power to 54% of Bethel and disrupting the start of school.
September began on a somber note with a remembrance of the 10th anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks. An all-clergy ceremony was held on the Municipal Center lawn with prayers, songs and speeches from local heroes and veterans. Click here to see video of the 9/11 service at Mr. Howard Lasher’s home in Newtown, just over the Bethel line.
An unwelcome visitor came to Bethel and surrounding towns in October, you know him, you can’t stand him. His name was Alfred—Storm Alfred. Knocking out power to thousands of Bethel residents, Alfred left thousands without electricity, running water, cable and phone service, some without power for 10 days. The Town of Bethel sprung into action, setting up an emergency shelter at the Municipal Center with showers, charging stations and even free pizza. C.E.R.T. teams, volunteers and town employees ran the shelter for the week while Bethel residents waited anxiously for power to be restored. The town also held an indoor trick-or-treat event at the Municipal Center for children who were unable to get out during the storm.
In November First Selectman Matthew Knickerbocker was re-elected to a second term, defeating challengers Kevin Cleary, Republican candidate, and Robert Burke, CT Tea Party candidate.
In December the Stony Hill Four Corners Association held a food drive at their annual tree lighting at the Stony Hill Four Corners, collecting over 150 boxes of food that stocked Brotherhood In Action’s shelves for their Christmas deliveries. The downtown Christmas tree lighting provided shoppers opportunities to take a horse-drawn carriage rides and participate in various activities downtown.
Community spirit was in full force this year, even in a tough economy, as Bethel residents banded together to help a family on Midway Drive who lost their home in a fire, just 2 weeks before Christmas. Collection boxes were set up at Famous Pizza and local news sites got the word out with the location to drop off items.
Brotherhood in Action thanked Bethel Buzz and other local news sites for helping get the word out about collections and said: “I don’t recall any other time in 15+ years of doing this that we actually had to turn volunteers away on delivery day because so many people came down! You have definitely raised awareness of the need in our town and helped us help more people. Thanks!”
In 2010 businesses came, businesses went and some played a “musical chairs” of sorts, relocating to a better, or less expensive location. Tea House Treasures moved into the Flower Corner Studio storefront, across from Caraluzzi’s. Homefront moved to the corner of P.T. Barnum Square. Private Studio Fitness moved from Francis J. Clarke Industrial Park to the former Bethel Cycle, which moved into the old, recently remodeled train station.
Karate America and Kid’s Cuts moved into the new plaza across from Bethel Cinema. A Country Touch moved from Greenwood Ave. down to Grassy Plain Street, joining forces with Alice’s Flower Shop. Molten Java is in the process of moving from 102 Greenwood Ave. into a large Victorian house at 213 Greenwood Ave.
Bethel said goodbye to The Purple Zebra, whose owner said closed due to the high cost of rent. Right next door the art gallery is in the process of closing. Bethel also said goodbye to Whaley’s Flower Bowl, Maddington’s Candy Shop, Video Exchange and Monkey Head Comics.
New to Greenwood Ave. is Gilleoghan Irish Dance, a studio whose students have already won numerous national and world champion awards. A couple of doors down, Aurora Photography moved into her first storefront and has proven to be a welcome addition to the downtown area, hosting many children and family events in her shop.
Just down the road, English Apothecary opened in the former location of English Drug to the delight of many Bethel residents who prefer the non-corporate, independently owned drugstore. Around the corner in P.T. Barnum Square, Beyond the Flea held a Grand Opening celebration for their new store, All About Pets. Cupcakes & Milkshakes renovated the storefront next to Famous Pizza and opened last spring.
Bethel welcomed with open arms (and mouths) Peachwave self-serve frozen yogurt, opened in Dolan Plaza by the Clifford family who own True Value Hardware. Also new to Dolan Plaza is Sal’z Pizza and Stella Restaurant.
Byrd’s Books opened this month in the upper level of the Victorian house where Molten Java will be, once they are completed with their renovations and approvals. Bee U Learning Center opened in the former location of Bright Horizons, in the Berkshire Corporate Park.
In addition to the many new businesses who came to town, Bethel teens were happy to have a new home. Pro Access Teen Center is located in the lower level of the Municipal Center temporarily while they await funding and approval to build a new center in the upper level, near the gym.
Bethel Buzz welcomes our newest businesses to town and wishes all of our local businesses health, happiness and prosperity in the coming New Year!