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Ringmaster’s Remarkable Ride On Roosevelt The Camel Thrills Barnum Festival Crowd

June 23rd, 2013 · 14 Comments · Analysis and Comment, News and Events

Stafstrom on camel

Ringmaster John Stafstrom prepares to dismount from the camel under the tented Ringmaster's Ball at Seaside Park. Photo courtesy of Marcella Kovac.

Barnum Festival Ringmaster John Stafstrom promised a Barnum blast Saturday night and he didn’t disappoint. Decked out in ringmaster red, he thrilled 500 spectators at the Ringmaster’s Ball at Seaside Park riding under the big top on a camel named Roosevelt, on land donated to the city by 19th Century showman P.T. Barnum whose statue was a stone’s throw away along the city’s waterfront park. In spectacular fashion, Stafstrom’s camel entry pulled a page out of the P.T. Barnum playbook lifting guests out of their chairs who included Governor Dan Malloy.

Stafstrom, former Bridgeport Democratic town chair and a law partner with the Bridgeport-based firm Pullman and Comley, is the 65th ringmaster of the Barnum Festival, the annual salute to the impresario. The Ringmaster’s Ball began a series of events for the final Barnum Festival week push that includes the Jenny Lind concert at the Bijou Theatre on Thursday, fireworks Sky Blast at Seaside Park on Friday, the Champions on Parade drum corp competition Saturday at Kennedy Stadium capped by the Great Street Parade starting at noon on Sunday June 30th. The ball helps to defray the costs of associated Barnum Festival events.

Stafstrom, Murphy  on camel

Stafstrom and husband Dennis Murphy ride in style.

“Paint The Park City Red” was the theme of the formal and there certainly was no shortage of crimson shades among the crowd. Stafstrom chose Seaside Park as the venue for the ball in tribute to Barnum,  the single greatest philanthropist in city history. Stafstrom also reached deep into his lengthy Rolodex to entice a broad section of politicians and business leaders to the event. In addition to Malloy, the event was attended by Lieutenant Governor Nancy Wyman, Attorney General George Jepsen, Secretary of the State Denise Merrill, State Comptroller Kevin Lembo, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal and Congressman Jim Himes. Mayor Bill Finch did not attend the ball. He spent the weekend in Las Vegas for the National Conference of Mayor’s meeting.

Shortly after 8 p.m. event organizers began the traditional introduction of former ringmasters and dignitaries under a massive tent abutting the Seaside Park band shell just steps from the water. Stafstrom’s introduction went from enthusiastic to thunderous as he and husband Dennis Murphy emerged on a camel, ducking their heads underneath the tent flapping, that carried them to the dance floor rushed by dozens of photo-snapping guests. Roosevelt was draped in a red cover for the roaring introduction. The camel went about his business calmly, delivering Stafstrom and Murphy through the cheering crowd and to the dance floor where they dismounted.

Camel rides have become a hot item at Connecticut’s Beardsley zoo, but Roosevelt came from a farm in upstate Goshen, Connecticut. With martinis flowing throughout the night a number of guests wondered about the ingredients for a camel martini. Hmmm. Whatever’s in that must be mighty dry.

The audience was also entertained by James Bavolacco, an 8th grader at Flood Middle School in Stratford and Adrian Cardova, a 10th grader at Bunnell High School in Stratford, winners of Barnum’s Got Talent Vocal Competition, a new festival event. The students  received $500 prizes and will also share a float with Javier Colon, inaugural winner of NBC’s The Voice, at the Great Street Parade June 30th. Colon was born in Bridgeport and raised in Stratford.

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14 Comments so far ↓

  • Chosen 1

    If Bridgeport were in the minutest bit relevant in this world, the jokes from the late-night personalities would be pouring in like a tsunami about Mario’s successor.

  • Mustang Sally

    The after party on Brooklawn Ave was REPLETE with Bridgeport’s finest as well. Fun, Fun, Fun!!!

  • Dave Walker

    It was a great venue and a lovely evening. Mary and I had a great time. The City has a right to be proud of the Barnum Festival. The Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, Comptroller and several surrounding City and Town leaders were there but the Mayor was in Vegas for a meeting? This a major event for the City and it’s unfortunate the Mayor did not attend. For the record, several Council Members did attend, including Tom “Conflict” McCarthy.

    • Steven Auerbach

      Dave Walker, do you believe the Mayor was missed? The focus was on Stafstrom the Barnum Ringmaster. Maybe Mayor Finch can accomplish something in Las Vegas. What headline do you think would be more important? Mayor missed Barnum event in Bridgeport or Bill Finch, Mayor of the largest city in the state of Connecticut missed the Conference for a party.

  • Grin Ripper

    Barnum was known for Jumbo the Elephant. They didn’t want to give the GOP any street cred and with all the Dems there were a lot of asses. The camel was apropos because I heard it was a smoking good time.

  • Jim Callahan

    I don’t want to hear anything about elephants. Contract the blogmaster for details.

  • MAGOO

    Why is it anytime we hear about Stafstrom, we have to hear about husband Denny boy. I don’t hear about anyone’s wife ever on OIB. Also we hear about the law firm. Enough, please.

  • Steven Auerbach

    Magoo–maybe because Stafstrom is as proud of his spouse as let’s say David Walker is of his.

    • Dave Walker

      Steven,
      Your are correct. I am proud of Mary. We got married in college and have been married for 42 years! She worked for Delta Airlines for over 30 years and is now a substitute teacher in elementary schools.

      • Steven Auerbach

        Congrats. 42 years is quite a milestone these days. I wonder if I have had the honor of meeting your wife as I have been in nearly every school in Bridgeport. My post above was just acknowledging Mr. Stafstrom and Mr. Murphy are as married as anyone else and like yourself, if his spouse is in the picture, he is acknowledged for what he is. His husband. Maybe after tomorrow’s supreme court ruling the public will not find it so odd.

        • Dave Walker

          Steven,
          We’ll see what the ruling is tomorrow. Mary teaches in Fairfield, Bridgeport and Catholic schools. She teaches the most in Fairfield because they call her directly a lot. They also pay the most although she isn’t teaching for the pay. She does it for the kids.

          • Steven Auerbach

            That is wonderful. At $70 a day I suppose I do it for the kids also. As it certainly doesn’t pay any bills. But I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. I cannot go anywhere in this city without a student seeking me out to say hello. Lololololololololololololol

  • Dave Walker

    Steven,
    I know what you mean. I have been with Mary many times when kids have recognized and said hello to her. She loves teaching and is very good at it. Her mother taught second grade in Jacksonville, Florida for decades.

  • MAGOO

    Steve,
    Well that is great news about Dave. AS I said and still believe, that is the very first time I read about someone’s spouse. WOW!!!

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