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Wyman Cracks The Whip, Jepsen Whistles Ringmaster, Finch Delivers Watch For Barnum Festival

May 18th, 2013 · 1 Comment · Analysis and Comment, Best of Bridgeport, News and Events

Wyman's whip

Lieutenant Governor Nancy Wyman hands the whip to Barnum Festival Ringmaster John Stafstrom at Friday's Whip, Whistle, Watch luncheon. Photo by Doreen Birdsell.

Nothing like a few state constitutional officers to spice up the formal kickoff to the 65th Barnum Festival featuring former Democratic Town Chair John Stafstrom as the 2013 Ringmaster. This festival is certain to be memorable. Lieutenant Governor Nancy Wyman and Attorney General George Jepsen were part of the power crowd that jammed the Bridgeport Holiday Inn Friday afternoon for the Whip, Whistle and Watch luncheon, the official launching point to celebrate the annual tribute to legendary 19th Century showman P.T. Barnum. www.barnumfestival.com

The time-honored fundraising event reflected the 65th Barnum Festival’s battle cry, “Honoring Tradition, Embracing Diversity & Having a Barnum Blast.” The presentation of the whip, whistle and watch to the ringmaster signifies the official start to the regional celebration featuring a variety of June events for children and adults.

Jepsen whistle

Attorney General George Jepsen hands over the whistle to Stafstrom. Behind Jepsen is Chuck Firlotte, chief executive officer of Aquarion Water Company. Photo by Doreen Birdsell.

The whip was presented by Wyman, the whistle handed over by Jepsen and the watch once owned by P.T. Barnum was presented by Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch.

“I love the Barnum Festival,” says Stafstrom “because it’s a time for everyone to kick back, relax and have fun in celebration of Barnum’s legacy of kind acts and entertaining friends and neighbors.”

Finch watch festival

Mayor Bill Finch presents the watch once owned by Barnum to the ringmaster. Behind Finch is Tom Santa, chief executive officer of Santa Energy. Next to Stafstrom is Richard Thivierge. senior vice president, William Blair & Company. Photo by Doreen Birdsell.

Barnum was a visionary behind Bridgeport Hospital, Aquarion Water Company and Bridgeport & Port Jefferson Steamboat Company. Barnum’s philanthropic efforts on behalf of the city included donation of the land for Seaside Park, the city’s waterfront jewel designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, architect of New York’s Central Park.

The Whip, Whistle and Watch luncheon helps to support the various festival events such as Wing Ding Parade for kids, concert saluting Jenny Lind, the Swedish soprano Barnum promoted introducing opera to America, Champions on Parade drum corps competition, Sky Blast fireworks and the Great Street Parade. Bridgeport-born Javier Colon, winner of NBC’s The Voice, will make a special appearance at the parade June 30.

Betty Pfriem whip whistle

The incomparable Betty Pfriem, former publisher of the Bridgeport Post-Telegram, predecessor papers to the Connecticut Post, attended the Whip, Whistle and Watch event. Betty goes about her life and philanthropic work in dignified elegance, quietly supporting so many needy organizations. Photo by Doreen Birdsell.

Event sponsor was Pullman & Comley, LLC where Stafstrom works as a law partner. Presenting sponsors were Aquarion Water Company, the accounting firm Blum Shapiro and the underwriting firm William Blair & Company.

Excerpt from Stafstrom’s luncheon remarks:

The spirit of PT Barnum does live on in Bridgeport–the spirit of the entrepreneur who founded the Ferry company and the Water company, the spirit of the civic leader who founded Bridgeport Hospital and who built much of the housing in the city’s East side, the philanthropist who donated Seaside Part to the City, and yes–the rebel who served time in jail for taking on the church in the press, the charlatan who gave the world the original Tom Thumb and Feejee Mermaid, the successful and then unsuccessful politician, and, of course, the greatest circus person of all time. I have learned that all of these spirits of P.T. Barnum live on and make up the fabric of this community. P.T. Barnum reinvented himself many different times in many different ways–always resourceful and ultimately successful–much like this community. I am proud to be part of this community and honored to serve as the 2013 Barnum Festival Ringmaster. We are going to put on one heck of a Barnum Festival–we will fulfill our theme–”Honoring tradition and embracing diversity” by having a “Barnum blast.” “It is the spirit of creativity, collaboration and fun–which is also this community–which will make the 2013 Barnum Festival a true Barnum Blast. Thank you all for your support and come out to our events and have FUN!!!”


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