Assessing Ringmasters, Ringleaders

Herbst, Lauretti Columbus Day
Trumbull First Selectman Tim Herbst and Shelton Mayor Mark Lauretti at a Bridgeport Columbus parade several years ago. Both are now candidates for governor.

For 70 years it’s been a gentlemen’s club, save for one insurgent Elizabeth “Betty” Pfriem (class of 1986), the late publisher of the Bridgeport Post and Telegram, but the annual announcement of the Barnum Festival ringmaster still brings out the old timers, business leaders, government influencers and politically ambitious. The other day at the introduction of restaurant entrepreneur Johnny Vazzano as the 2018 festival leader CT Post Editorial Page Editor Michael Daly was there sizing up at least three candidates for governor, Mayor Joe Ganim, Trumbull First Selectman Tim Herbst and Shelton Mayor Mark Lauretti, all with roots in Bridgeport.

The early race for governor is wide open–incumbent Dan Malloy has opted out of another run–with no clear-cut front runner. Amidst a chaotic fiscal mess, key corporate brands leaving the state, Connecticut electors longing for the days of productive steady habits, gubernatorial candidates well known and otherwise seek a cast that reels in confidence. From Daly:

He found forgiveness in Bridgeport and, who knows, maybe Connecticut voters will be equally forgiving.

… A few minutes later, Trumbull’s feisty first selectman, Tim Herbst, came into the room.

Herbst, too, would like to be governor. Also on hand was another hopeful, former Ringmaster Mark Lauretti, mayor of Shelton. It’s tough to argue with his record. Herbst and Lauretti are Republicans. Most years, that would be like running a marathon while carrying a Steinway.

In 2018, though, given the conditions in Connecticut, it may be the Democrats who will be running with a handicap.

Full column here.



  1. The State is in financial trouble? The City has its own financial issues not the least of which is that anticipated revenues will not be received by the City and cuts will become necessary? How much? Well it is curious that the 2017 budget year closed June 30 with a surplus, but where has that been reported? So maybe some dollars are being warehoused for leaner times? But no sign of OPEN, ACCOUNTABLE, TRANSPARENT and HONEST governance that might share the broad outlook with the people who pay taxes and whose home values were reduced in the past two years bringing some to move and others to discover they were underwater.
    “Underwater” describes a situation where the appraised value of a property by a certified professional aware of multiple factors including current market activity on similar properties shows that the debt on the property exceeds the value. There is no equity left. What you thought was present in a previous given year, is gone!!

    And the largest City giveaway in the form of transfer from Plan B to MERS in 2015 has a price tag that no one currently can stipulate? But it exceeds $207 Million according to 2015 CAFR restatements. And Mayor Ganim would resolve this problem by bonding? And labor relations is working on a contract with public safety that expired in June 2016? What is the new concept? How about a rollback of the plan that does so much for retirees with overtime earnings in their highest three years that may equal benefits of another year of pay in retirement annually?
    (Remember that his solution in 2000 to Pension problems at that time was Plan A, bonding an actuarial liability number to ‘solve’ the problem at $350 Million?? But by the end of the 30 year bond taxpayers of Bridgeport were scheduled to pay $900 Million of principal and interest? And Council persons of that period thought that would be the end of it? Expensive but complete!!

    However, today we find that Police and Fire budgets will cough up that $30 Million of annual bond payment until 2029. But we are also contributing an added $15 Million annually for the actuarial liability of having only $60 Million left earning a return and up to $30 Million payable to retirees each year. (As long as Andy, and Ron, and Don, and many others or their widows survive there will be payments to them and likely the fund will expire first.) That leaves current taxpayers on a pay as you go basis to a plan with an ASSUMED investment return that is unrealistic (8%) and requires additional amounts to be paid.

    Will that area of expertise be something that Ganim2 puts on display for State voters? Why does Joe hide the extreme generosity without fiscal considerations for the taxpayer of the Finch administration? Is Mario the originator of “fiscal power to public safety personnel” and maintainer of that pledge and practical result? Well when other voters in other communities see inept fiscal management and unwillingness to share and repair broken concepts with those who must pay, perhaps there will be a wide berth given to the “dynamic duo” from Bridgeport? How many Bridgeport voters, who understand that Ganim2’s new bonding program for MERS ‘overtime past actuarial liability’ will cost more than this bonding for as long as we fail to earn the 8% assumed and the recent ten year return for MERS averages under 5%? Time will tell.

  2. Lennie you wrote, For 70 years it’s been a gentlemen’s club, save for one insurgent Elizabeth “Betty” Pfriem (class of 1986), the late publisher of the Bridgeport Post and Telegram, but the annual announcement of the Barnum Festival ringmaster still brings out the old timers, business leaders, government influencers and politically ambitious.

    Wouldn’t it have been better said had you put,”it’s been a White gentlemen’s club.

    1. Don, Barnum Festival has NO relationship with the black community of Bridgeport, none at all. In 2004 Peter F. Hurst became the first and ONLY Barnum Festival Ringmaster.

      Barnum Festival did do a recognition of Alice Whiting Farrar, the mother of Geraldine Farrar Johnson, in 2000, she was one of two women in Connecticut honored at the age of 106. Geraldine Farrar Johnson  who became the city’s first female and African American principal and the first female and African American superintendent. Geraldine Farrar Johnson died November 28, 2015 at the age of 96. Don, that’s it, nothing else, in fact the changed the route of the parade to be only in the north end of Bridgeport.

  3. Isn’t that a curiosity? Something that Barnum might have noted, back in his day, and tried to profit from? Barnum was an abolitionist early on. Perhaps someone like Doug Davidoff might like to pick up where we have left off and carry the message of how his views about slavery (or race) might have changed over time. Times change and people of color from the islands celebrated this past weekend at Harboryard with admission and parking charges not heretofore a part of that celebration.

    What news of City expense for police, etc. for the Barnum Festival parade, juneteenth parade, St. Patrick’s day, Puerto Rican Parade, and other times we come together to celebrate a new and changing City demographic? And a Brazilian Day at Seaside yesterday? A recent visit to the African American Museum of History in Washington DC has me wishing we were able to spend more than the three hours allocated. However, in a graph the Museum informed that of the Africans who finished the ocean voyage called the Middle Passage to the Americas after 1500, only 6% came to the colonies that became the USA. Slightly over 50% were brought to Brazil. From the original 600,000 brought as chattel property, sold and enslaved to provide plantation work mainly, by the time of the Civil War more than 4 Million were part of that family despite the violent and inhuman physical practices apparently conferred by “ownership” and sustained by “white supremacy” viewpoints that were part of the national consciousness before and after the Emancipation Proclamation.

    Has there ever been a conscious attempt by the community leaders of the Barnum events to prepare for the future of such a community event and become conscious of this absence? How many Barnum ringmasters have been City residents at the time of their “whistle and whip” ascension in the past 20 years, for example? Time will tell.

  4. The Barnum Festival is a throwback, like the statues of Confederate generals in Southern cities. It reminds me of the Junior League and the Saughters of the American Revolution, a celebration of uptight caucasianness.

  5. Everything today has to be about race which lessens true race issues. The Barnum Festival is a great organization and gives great joy to people of all ages and races. The comment by Mr. Mackey that the Festival has “No” relationship with the black community is factually wrong, maybe it’s just not to his liking. He and Mr. Day can always become volunteers to give input to the board instead of going on a blog with negative comments. And the height of the viaduct on Park Avenue was the main reason for the relocation of the parade.

    1. John Kleps, please share with us the relationship that the Barnum Festival has with the black community. There have been 70 Barnum Festival Ringmasters and there has only been ONE black Ringmaster.

      Here is a little history about PT Barnum and blacks.

      Race and Race Relations in P.T. Barnum’s New York City
      by James W. Cook

      As a young showman touring the South during the late 1830s, he had briefly owned slaves-a sin for which he later publicly apologized. More typically, he catered to the conventional prejudices and fascinations of his Northern audiences, producing a wide variety of “living curiosity” exhibitions that accentuated all varieties of difference between viewer and performer. These exhibitions did not focus exclusively on any one race, ethnicity, nationality, or physical attribute. Rather, the guiding principle was to create a spectrum of freakishness outside the boundaries of white middle-class normalcy through characters such as the “Aztec Children,” whom Barnum claimed to have discovered at an ancient Mexican temple; or Chang and Eng, the famous “Siamese Twins.” Ironically, it was only as performers that many of these people had access to the American Museum. While Barnum sought out consumers of all classes, religions, regions, and political affiliations, his Museum was (like most antebellum American cultural institutions) generally off limits to non-whites.

      Barnum embodied many of the racial paradoxes at the heart of 19th-century America. Although he became increasingly committed to anti-slavery in the years leading up to the Civil War-and even proposed a universal manhood suffrage amendment to the Connecticut Constitution in 1865-these new political commitments did not lead him to embrace full racial equality, or even to question the racial stereotypes regularly produced as part of his own entertainment empire. At the time of Barnum’s death in 1891, his circuses still presented people of color almost exclusively as “living curiosities.”

    1. Phil, really? The Barnum Festival is a PRIVATE organization so you expect blacks to join a organization that’s all white, no that’s not going to happen. The Barnum Festival like a few other organization in Bridgeport don’t feel a civic need to reach out and include one of the biggest population in Bridgeport. The only real involvement that blacks have with the Barnum Festival is to see the parade and even that has a setback with the route of the parade not going or ending in the Park City’s beautiful Seaside Park like it did for the longest time. The parade would go down Park Ave. and families would plan that whole day by having cookouts in Seaside Park. Now they use excuse that thy can’t do that anymore because the height of the viaduct on Park Avenue was the main reason for the relocation of the parade. Really, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade had problems with their balloons but they made adjustments. Here in Bridgeport those large balloons and floats could be lined up on Railroad Ave and they could start from there while the other section of the parade could line up like they always did inside of Seaside Park.

  6. Why do you feel the need to address individual? He said nothing about the post by JML, just the posts by the two Blacks. He said nothing about the post by (DB) the Bridgeport Kid who said,” The Barnum Festival is a throwback, like the statues of Confederate generals in Southern cities.” Nothing from this person so it’s obvious that he’s not an advocate for the Barnum Festival in reality he’s an anti-black, an anti anything that would change the status quo of whiteness.

    He did nothing to look into the sad history of both P.T. Barnum and the Barnum Festival because both has failed the Black community miserably. All he did this time was to find fault with our comments and you can bet he’s lived his life critiquing Blacks folks while trying to make America great again. He’s a sad commentary on the Barnum Festival, Bridgeport and America.

  7. Mr Mackey, I see numerous minorities in the parade, volunteering and representing the Festival as King and Queen, I would say that is involvement. It would be nice if someone from the organization that is on this Blog could comment on what places the festival goes to to entertain. Much to your dismay the organization does not discriminate nor is racist. As for one Ringmaster that was Black, I would say it could be due to a lack of someone from the black community being involved with the Festival that showed interest in being Ringmaster and had the ability to raise the money needed to fund the festival. I am not sure, but those are most likely two of the main qualifications of a Ringmaster. I’m sure when the Festival visits Nursing Homes they don’t say before going in….Don’t entertain any minorities.

    1. John Kleps, I’ve never said anybody was racist, that’s your word so you own it. You also said, “the organization does not discriminate,” the Barnum Festival doesn’t do any out reach to the black community, none. I’ve attended two Barnum Festival Ringmaster Ball in 2015 and 2016 as a guest of someone and I could count the number of blacks on one hand. AS for Ringmaster, there are a number of black judges, attorneys and business owners who have NEVER been asked to be a Ringmaster or to be involve with the Barnum Festival. The makeup of the people in Bridgeport is more than 75% but the Barnum Festival has NO relationship with the Barnum Festival.

      John Kleps, I notice that you had no comment about PT Barnum’s past history with blacks. Also tell me why does Bridgeport celebrate PT Barnum with a festival but doesn’t tell the WHOLE history of PT Barnum, the good and the bad?

      1. I must say that it was mighty white of the Barnum Festival to select Judge Rodriguez to be the first and only Hispanic Ringmaster for the Barnum Festival and Peter Hurst as the first and only black Barnum Festival Ringmaster. Wow, two out of 70 Ringmasters.

  8. Write On Kleps!
    Don’t leave out Tom Thumb and Lavinia!
    Eddie Rodrigues, too.

    John Vazzano’s work every Thanksgiving and Christmas garnering Turkeys and Christmas gifts for Bridgeport family and kids.

    I know that that the Blues are running but you guys need to cut the race and bait, chums.

  9. State Senator and Aquarion executive George Logan would make a great pick for Ringmaster. He is now hereby nominated and the water company that Barnum helped found should pony up!

    1. John Kleps // Aug 29, 2017 at 9:24 am

      Much to your dismay the organization does not discriminate nor is racist.

      John Kleps, like I said, those are your words so own it.

  10. Mr. Kelps, what qualifies as, “true racial issues?” Why wasn’t the fact that Lennie alluded to the fact that Elizabeth Pfriem being the only female not Gender baiting? The criterion for the Ringmaster is one’s ability to raise money for said festival and an interest in Ringmaster and No Blacks fit the criteria? The Barnum Festival reaches out to other communities for its Ringmaster so are you insinuating or intimating that there are no Blacks in the State of Connecticut that possess the ability to raise money? Can one look at that statement and reasonably surmise that it’s bigoted in its nature?

    America as a nation, tried so hard to believe that racism no longer exists, that we just began to ignore even the most obvious signs of racial mistreatment. I know that since the election of President Barrack Obama we now live in a post racial society where racism no longer exists, but again, what are true racial issues? The notion of race neutrality also came of age so much so that Colorblindness became to new Jim Crow. America and you still can’t see what it refuses to acknowledge, but refusal to see something doesn’t make it disappear. As we know, turning one’s head doesn’t solve the problem of racism. It just allows the trash of racism to pile up in the house until the stench becomes unbearable. Colorblindness is a ploy to refuse to acknowledge race, but racism is as plain as it’s ever been and with the election of 45 we again smell the stench of racism, although for some of us have smelled that stench our whole lives.

    1. I am not insinuating that there are no Blacks that fit the criteria and have the ability to do so, I am well aware of many who are, I said involved with the Festival. I don’t know who they have asked and who they haven’t but I would think some turn it down due to time restrictions. Have a nice day!

      1. John Kleps, really, you said, “I don’t know who they have asked and who they haven’t but I would think some turn it down due to time restrictions,” really, one black out of 70 because as you said, ” time restrictions.” What a joke, please stop making excuses.

  11. Time restrictions are to all people who have been asked. If this bugs you so much I suggest you contact the Festival and ask and not just comment on a blog.

    1. I have no plans to contact the Barnum Festival instead I plan on asking the sponsors of the Barnum Festival on why they support a Lilly white organization that has no outreach to the black community in Bridgeport and do they think that their customers would like that.

  12. “Everything today has to be about race which lessens true race issues” is the way John Kleps opened his post above. He may be a regular reader of OIB content, but perhaps overstates the extent “race issues” feature in OIB discussion? He does not seem happy with the subject, and that sometime occurs when people are unfamiliar with the story of persons of color in America?

    Aren’t there two (or more) issues addressed here? The first is our local hero, P.T.Barnum, active in so many roles in Bridgeport after his entertainment interests worldwide and in NYC specifically. His moral and religious beliefs seemed to fuel his abolitionist philosophy. After the Emancipation Proclamation and subsequent conclusion of the Civil War, the period called Reconstruction in the South lasted fewer than 15 years when activities to heal 400 years of chattel slavery for human persons of color. After centuries of considering those human beings as less than human beings and unequal in rights, folks in the North and South went about their business as close to that which went on before the War Between The States. No big changes in education, work opportunities, right to travel, vote, etc. and when the military left the South, Jim Crow and “black codes” took serious hold.By the way, after the Civil War while State Constitutions were changed and several new Amendments to the US Constitution were promulgated, in many places while blacks were recognized as “citizens”, native Americans continued to have no status.

    Had this happened to the Irish, German or Italian immigrants to name a few, or those from Eastern Europe over the centuries there would be more understanding today of the current mud in which we are stuck. In the 19th Century, Chinese were imported to do the hard work of connecting the coasts by rail and the other major racial “distinctions and separation” came during WWII with Japanese citizens and residents.

    The other story line has to do with the 20th and 21st Century institution, the Barnum Festival, a civic series of events in the region held annually when funds and friends who volunteer are available that includes parades, events for kids and the elderly, and fireworks. Larger in some years and in the early years than today. But in looking at the succession of leadership over the years that includes one female white citizen, one male Hispanic citizen and one male African-American citizen, the conclusion to be drawn about gender and race is that the numbers fail to represent the diversity of the regional audience over time. Perhaps it is best explained by the early description, “a white gentlemen’s club”? Does the 2017 Board or elected Ringmaster currently have an interest in reaching out to the diversity of the regional community to repair the racial legacy that we live with, perhaps blind and unconscious of facts to this day? Isn’t there some great potential for story telling that completes civic notions of American history? Time will tell.

  13. The well-known poem First They Came for the Jews, attributed to Pastor Martin Niemöller:

    First they came for the Jews
    and I did not speak out
    because I was not a Jew.

    Then they came for the Communists
    and I did not speak out
    because I was not a Communist.

    Then they came for the trade unionists
    and I did not speak out
    because I was not a trade unionist.

    Then they came for me
    and there was no one left to speak out for me.

  14. Does the Democratic Party have an interest in reaching out to the diversity of the city community and elect a person of color for mayor to repair its racial legacy? Should we relitigate 400 years of history to provide an explanation for this as well? Time might tell.

      1. The Democratic Party in Bridgeport will do for the black and latino communities only when they need votes.

        The Barnum Festival is a celebration of a time that passed a long long time ago.

    1. John Kleps, please, there’s NO DOUBT that you heard the dog whistle from 45, Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, 45 has made it ok for you and others not to wear a hood anymore, just wear your red 45 baseball cap.

  15. I put that out there because I knew that would be your response. Anybody that voted for Trump or listens to conservative radio and tv is a racist and member of the KKK in your book. Make sure you guys inform Jack Nicklaus that he’s a member of the KKK and not to wear his hood on the course. I’m done.

    1. John Kleps, there are a number of conservative Republicans that I like, FOX NEWS Shepard Smith, the Republican Governor of Ohio, John Kasich, former Republican Congressman Jack Kemp, Nicolle Wallace, White House Communications Director during the presidency of George W. Bush, Republican and former Lieutenant Governor and Connecticut Governor, Jodi Rell.

      Tell me why hasn’t 45 ever apologize to former President Obama birtherism? Also, why hasn’t 45 apologize to the Central Park 5,  Donald Trump said the Central Park Five are guilty, despite DNA evidence.  New York paid them $41 million in a settlement in 2014 over their ordeal.Trump spent $85,000 placing full-page ads in the four daily papers in New York City, calling for the return of the death penalty for these teenagers. Do you agree with 45?

    2. Don’t waste your time arguing with Mr. Kleps. Probably voted for Donald Trump. All of his defenses of the Barnum Fest are self-serving. Token outreach does not equal inclusiveness. It is a celebration of assumed superiority. This is Bridgeport, not Cleveland, Mississippi. That shit doesn’t fly here.

      The march on Charlottesville was an eye opener for many. Members if the American Nazi Party, the Ku Klux Klan and other violent white nationalist groups were there shouting racially charged slogans, waving confederate flags and swastika banners. David Duke was there declaring that his organization will “fulfill the promises of Donald Trump.”  Mr. Trump denounced Mr. Duke and his colleagues in the white hoods and brown shirts only after intense pressure from other members of the GOP. even then it took three attempts, none of which convinced anyone he was sincere. 

      Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Newt Gingrich and the other alt-right talking heads blame everything on the Democratic Party, Barack Obama, Bill and Hillary Clinton. The GOP shut down the government, TWICE, yet blamed Barack Obama. 

      Over the past 8 years the GOP controlled House of Representatives has had one objective: erasing Barack Obama’s presidency from the history books. Why? Because he is an African-American. One of his biggest achievements, the Affordable Care Act, made healthcare a right, not a privilege. The insurance and pharmaceutical lobbies would have us believe differently. Donald Trump campaigned on the promise to repeal and replace ACA. When replacement legislation stalled in committee Mr. Trump demanded an outright repeal which would revoke the healthcare benefits of about 20,000,000 of his supporters. 

      I’m optimistic that Robert Mueller’s investigation will produce articles of impeachment. As the GOP’s approval ratings are down around curb level chances are better than average the Democrats will regain the majority in the House in 2018. And the House votes on impeachment. Good.

      Now, about that convicted felon sitting in the mayor’s office…

    1. And that boys and girls ends our community discussion of the day on how American History provides background to the state of “race relations” in these United States in the early 21st Century. Tune in next week when we move onto another privileged subject, gender, and discuss whether our current world today would be any different had voting been offered to women earlier in most countries? Suffrage, anyone? When folks are given the right to vote, does that also give them the privilege to not vote? Time will tell.

  16. Since it’s a new day, can we continue the discussion or do we really need to wait until next week and talk about gender privilege? And if we have to wait until next week , could you confirm that you’re referring to “white gender privilege” so I can collect my thoughts on this subject over the long weekend? Thanks

  17. Ok, so black female voters make up the largest percentage of Democratic voters, but they’re not the largest number of voters overall. By the way, I didn’t say they represented the largest number of voters either, just the largest percentage within a particular voting bloc. So what exactly are they or do you want to wait until next week to continue when we discuss gender privilege in depth including the 400 years of history leading to this condition ?

    1. Phil, that was not me but it was JML who said, “Tune in next week when we move onto another privileged subject, gender, and discuss whether our current world today would be any different had voting been offered to women earlier in most countries? Suffrage, anyone? When folks are given the right to vote, does that also.”

  18. My suggestion about gender privilege discussions “next week” was frankly an acknowledgement that would allow the discussion on “color privilege” to continue to satisfaction.
    In the past couple years I have read and continue to explore much that has been written about the journey of people of color from Emancipation to today. There are many enlightening texts written with fact accuracy and passion to challenge hearts and minds of those who have missed out on the “story” of the myth of white supremacy and the toll that it continues to take.
    Contrast Charlamagne Tha God’s opportunistic treatment of BLACK PRIVLEGE with Carol Anderson’s exposure of WHITE RAGE as a most current and enlightening historic text. Try COMPLICITY by former Hartford Courant staffers including Bridgeport resident Joel Lang from 2005 to see how Northern industry and financial institutions benefited from “slavery” and you begin to wonder how abolitionists carried the day for a while. THE THIRD RECONSTRUCTION by Rev. Dr. Barber from North Carolina deals with how each period of reconstruction meets its own wave of obstruction and deflection such that we never have reached a re-set position as a country. And THE COLOR OF LAW dealing with the history of how our government continued a segregated America through Federal housing programs by Richard Rothstein helps us see 20th Century recent history in a new light. There are many more texts of this kind, and if we fail to become more familiar with our own US History we cannot hold our leaders to a better rendition of current policy. If you have one, let me know of a favorite text that bears on the subject of US and race relations. Moving from ignorance to humility and empathy? Time will tell.

  19. John Mcwhorter, Losing the Race is instructive for a current understanding of race relations. Any book by Kenneth Stampp would provide good insights into the causes of the the War of Northern Aggression and of course C Vann Woodward for the antebellum era. I also remember Lords of the Loom being a good account of the wealth realized by the Lawerences and Lowells and others on the backs of slave labor. Who are you suggesting needs to move from ignorance to the other human conditions? Some people? All people? You? Me?

    1. Phil, what point are you trying to make about traitors and terrorist of America like those Southern American confederate states who lost the war against America?

      1. Phil, here is a little recent viewpoint about 45 and John Mcwhorter.

        CNN) When President Donald Trump revealed that he doesn’t know why the Civil War was fought, or at least figures it could have been averted by the kind of deal-making he supposedly excels at, it was revealing in ways beyond the ones easy to glean.

        The ignorance is, as usual, stunning for someone in the public spotlight. “People don’t ask that question, but why was there the Civil War?” Trump asks rhetorically, which is like saying no one has bothered to study anatomy or physics.

        Then there’s Trump’s question: “Why could that one not have been worked out?” Of course this implies that the North should have cut ever more deals with the South to continue enslaving black people. But Trump either 1) doesn’t know enough about the Civil War to know that (upon which, see above), or 2) doesn’t think the slavery issue should have been a priority.

        Upon which we have two more choices. One is that Trump has engaged the literature suggesting that slavery would have evaporated in the United States on its own accord because of economic reasons. Again, however, see above — which means that Trump doesn’t “get” race. 

        Trump’s neonate perspective on the Civil War reveals more than Trump’s lack of book smarts or interest in “the African-Americans.” Rather, Trump’s ignorance about something as fundamental to our nation’s history as the Civil War marks a profound disconnection from anything but his mundane self. It is this that reveals him as tragically unfit for his office.

        He might claim an interest in history, but it is only on the level of a gee-whiz hero worship of the colorful exploits of an alpha male ex-soldier like Andrew Jackson. This is ultimately a continuation of a little boy’s fondness for the likes of Davy Crockett (which Trump may well have had). Trump misses, for example, that Jackson would likely have despised him for his origins, his wealth and his personal conduct.

  20. Ron-definitely my final word

    When I think of the Barnum Festival……………..

    Quite a few years ago, on my daily commute into the city, two gentlemen boarded the train at Southport and took the seats to my left. Almost as soon as they sat, they began talking about plans to create a drum and bugle corps for those who had grown up with this joy but whose years had been plentiful since this joy had been such integral part of their lives. And they spoke with genuine excitement of the possibilities of reuniting with many others, now into their fifties, with whom they had shared so many marching experiences so many years ago.

    I was struck with the degree of romanticism and genuine love that they expressed when recounting their drum and bugle corps lives. Both had grown up in the South End and spent many days walking to St Raphael’s to practice with their instruments in hand. And I distinctly remember one of them describing the feeling he had when he reached the top of Washington Ave and descended into the Hollow as the sound of instruments already warming up reached his ears. His words were, and I remember them well, “When I began to hear the music, there was nothing at that point in time that was more important in my life”.

    Within a few years, what had only been a far-fetched plan had been organized into real life as the Park City Pride Drum and Bugle Corps, a spirited and talented group of men and women determined to play again and share their love with the world. And soon thereafter, I found myself sitting at Kennedy Stadium on a warm summer night for another year of the Champions on Parade watching them perform and awed by the passion that streamed through their bodies with every blast of the horn and beat of the drum. There was a bit a magic to be had and I felt genuine happiness for these two men who just a few years earlier could only speak of this possibility as a dream. It was a quintessential Barnum Festival moment. Oh, by the way, not that it mattered to me then or now, both men were black.

    I think the year was 1999, but I may be off by one or two. I know that I started chairing the Black Rock Day Parade in 1994 and it was a few years later that I thought it would be a good idea to reach out to the Barnum Festival parade organizers for some help and advice. Nick Pecorelli from the Barnum Festival responded to this request.

    I had never met Nick before, nor had I any direct contact with the Barnum Festival organization. Nick, as I was to learn, had been involved for as long as this festival existed (check its start date) and had continued to be a driving force many decades later. His support for us was immediate and his help was to continue in all the years that have since ensued. I know that Nick will agree that those years have provided lots of great memories.

    I see Nick now every year at the Black Rock Day Parade still driving the support vehicle for the Barnum Festival Float. I cherish the moments I spend with Nick during the chaotic hour leading up to the parade’s start. As always, he is supportive, gracious and kind. I greatly admire this man and the decades of work he has provided on behalf of this organization.

    And so that’s my Barnum Festival, not the “white gentlemen’s club” and all its racial insinuations or the despicable reference to a confederate statue or the moral indignation expressed at its lack of connection to the racial legacy of this nation’s history. No, rather it’s the joy and excitement and magic brought to tens of thousands of people for more than half a century by tons of dedicated volunteers. And my Barnum Festival represents all that’s good about a town that needs to embrace every bit of goodness it can find.

    1. Phil, thank you for sharing that story and there was a time when playing in groups like you listed was a big deal all over the city. Remember, Bridgeport doesn’t celebrate the 4th of July with a parade and there is no Memorial Day Parade so the only thing kids could march and play their musical instrument was in the Barnum Festival Parade. The Barnum Festival Parade could be a teachable moment but……..


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