Newtown goes national

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Dec. 14 is and always will be a difficult day in Newtown. This past Dec. 14, on the seventh anniversary of the Sandy Hook tragedy, there were a few hours of joy for many town residents. The Newtown High School football team won the Class LL state championship 13-7 over Darien on the final play of the game, a 36-yard touchdown pass from Jack Street to Riley Ward.

Many players on the team were students at Sandy Hook Elementary School seven years ago, including Street. Teammate Ben Pinto lost his brother, Jack.

The whirlwind that followed was a Super Bowl-level experience. The next day the team traveled to NBC Sports headquarters in Stamford to appear on national TV during halftime of the Steelers-Bills Sunday Night Football game. On Monday morning, Street and head coach Bobby Pattison went to Milford to be interviewed on Dan Patrick’s radio show. That night the team was in Bristol for a tour of ESPN and a segment on SportsCenter. On Thursday, Gov. Ned Lamont went to Newtown High to congratulate the team.

Animal instincts

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Beardsley Bart

It’s a jungle out there when it comes to spring-prognosticating critters in Connecticut. Patterned after the most famous groundhog of them all, Pennsylvania’s Punxatawney Phil, Chuckles is the state’s official groundhog. He took over as the ninth Chuckles a few years ago, having survived an attack by a larger animal and losing an eye in the process. The resident of the Lutz Children’s Museum in Manchester is joined by Cider, at the West Hartford Children’s Museum, and Clyde, a stuffed woodchuck at the Roaring Brook Nature Center in Canton. A larger-than-life woodchuck named Ed has been the main attraction of the Groundhog Day Parade in Essex for decades. Branching out into the animal kingdom, Bridgeport’s Beardsley Zoo boasts Bart the prairie dog. And in Eastford, a duck dubbed Scramble has been predicting spring’s arrival — correctly, say its handlers — since 2015. Groundhog Day is Feb. 2. Which cuddly creature do you trust to make the right call this year?

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Cold facts

-32 degrees Fahrenheit: Coldest documented temperature in state history (recorded Feb. 16, 1943, in Falls Village, and Jan. 22, 1961, in Coventry)

The coldest Connecticut February on record was 2015: Only nine days reached or exceeded 32 degrees, while 10 nights dropped below 0. The average daily temperature barely went over 16 degrees; the normal average is about 30 degrees.

74 degrees Fahrenheit: Warmest recorded February temperature in Connecticut (recorded Feb. 21, 2018, and Feb. 6, 2019, both in Windsor Locks; previous record was 73 degrees, recorded Feb. 24, 1985, also in Windsor Locks)

The warmest Connecticut February on record was 2018: During this epic February thaw, temperatures across the state soared into the high 60s and even 70s, smashing many town records for warmest days in February.

Sources: U.S. National Climatic Data Center, local news reports

 Hello from the other side …

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… They must’ve called a thousand times. Have you noticed the number of spam phone calls seems to be increasing lately? You’re not the only one. In 2018, unwanted calls accounted for 66 percent of Federal Communications Commission complaints. An analysis of FCC data since 2015, conducted by security.org, showed that Connecticut ranked third in the nation for most FCC complaints regarding unwanted calls.

The Senate approved a bill — the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence Act, or the TRACED Act — in late December to crack down on robocalls. President Trump signed the bill into law, which stiffens enforcement, calls for tougher fines, and requires telecom companies to offer free consumer tools to combat the problem.

How much do we all loathe robocalls? In these partisan times, the Senate passed the bill unanimously after the House of Representatives voted 417-3.

A revolutionary discovery

Found under the foundation of a historic Ridgefield house in December were three skeletons, possibly belonging to Revolutionary War soldiers who died in the Battle of Ridgefield in 1777. If forensic testing currently underway reveals that to be the case, it would mark the first time that Revolutionary War victims from the field of battle have been recovered in Connecticut, state archaeologist Nicholas Bellantoni, who oversaw the excavation, told The Ridgefield Press.

The thrill of VKTRY, less agony for the feet

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Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

Matt Arciuolo, owner of Arciuolo’s Shoes in Milford (the oldest shoe store in Connecticut), is also the founder of VKTRY Gear, which began manufacturing VKTRY Performance Insoles in 2016. VKTRY makes aerospace-grade carbon fiber insoles that are currently being worn by professional athletes — including World Series MVP and New Britain native George Springer of the Houston Astros — and more than 200 professional and collegiate teams.

According to the company, a 2017 study conducted at The Human Performance Lab at Southern Connecticut State University found a roughly 9 percent increase in rate of force development (athletic explosiveness) when using the insoles. Arciuolo, a certified pedorthist, conceived the idea when he began working with the Team USA Olympic bobsled and skeleton teams in 2005. After a decade of research and development he launched VKTRY Gear in 2016.

Meet in the middle

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Sounds crazy, but could we start to see some bipartisan cooperation on the political scene? Here’s the thinking: The mess down in D.C. with the impeachment and the election is a constant. One thing it has taught us is the two sides are utterly divided with basically no one in the middle. And it’s been spilling into Connecticut as well, as we’ve seen with the tolls debate and with some nasty rhetoric. But that was so last decade. It’s 2020; the state General Assembly session starts Feb. 5. No place to go but the middle, right? We’ve now reflected on the decade Connecticut just finished, and it was unspeakably bad. Massachusetts tends to have Republican governors and Democratic legislatures, and they’re flying high. Connecticut did well with a bipartisan compromise budget in 2017, leading to a $3 billion rainy-day fund today. So, why not a little more compromise on taxes, state retiree givebacks, transportation funding, even gambling expansion? The theory is, it starts with the people and the leaders follow. We’ll see. It is, after all, an election year. 

This article appeared in the February 2020 issue of Connecticut Magazine. You can subscribe here, or find the current issue on sale hereSign up for our newsletter to get the latest and greatest content from Connecticut Magazine delivered right to your inbox. Got a question or comment? Email editor@connecticutmag.com, or contact us on Facebook @connecticutmagazine or Twitter @connecticutmag.

The senior writer at Connecticut Magazine, Erik is the co-author of Penguin Random House’s “The Good Vices” and author of “Buzzed” and “Gillette Castle.” He is also an adjunct professor at WCSU’s MFA Program and Quinnipiac University

Mike Wollschlager, editor and writer for Connecticut Magazine, was born and raised in Bristol and has lived in Farmington, Milford, Shelton and Wallingford. He was previously an assistant sports editor at the New Haven Register.

Albie Yuravich is the editor in chief of Connecticut Magazine. A product of the Naugatuck River Valley, he's also been a newspaper editor and writer at the New Haven Register, Greenwich Time, The Register Citizen and the Republican-American.