By Kaitlyn Naples
Politicians, local and state officials, and anyone interested in a lamb dinner and good laugh attended the annual end of summer event at the Lake Compounce ballroom last week. The Crocodile Club held its annual meeting last Friday, bringing in politicians from both sides of the aisle, to come together to socialize and be part of a friendly afternoon atmosphere. The speeches throughout the day are not supposed to contain any serious political debates or discussions, but are meant to be light-hearted, like a roast.
“I applaud the fact that we have a day like today,” Bristol Mayor Art Ward said, and added that at the annual event brings together “people from across the aisle who have the same wants, needs and desires.”
It was the last time for someas town or city officials at the event, such as Ward and Southington Town Council Chair John Dobbins, who thanked the mayor for hosting the event in Bristol, and also said he has enjoyed working with the mayor over the last several years.
The club was formed 131 years ago, in 1875, by former legislator Gad Norton, who created the Crocodile Club as an effort to thank fellow state legislators for the passing of the statute which moved the town line of Southington and Bristol. The line was moved because Lake Compounce was originally in Southington and Gad Norton, who opened up Lake Compounce in 1846, wanted to be able to put his farmhouse in Bristol, where he knew more people and could vote and do all of his trading.
In 2010, was the first year the annual dinner was held in seven years. Gad Norton’s son, and former Bristol mayor, J. Harwood “Stretch” Norton used to run the event, until he became ill and could no longer host it. Louise DeMars, executive director of the New England Carousel Museum went to the Norton family in 2010 to ask if she could start the tradition up again.
The annual picnic is full of food, drinks and conversation and laughter. Per Norton’s orders, there are no serious political discussions allowed at the event, “just pleasant sociability, good fun, and good food.”
Republican leader of the state Senate, John McKinney, said the event brings together “lots of fun and good friends.”
McKinney is running for governor in 2014, and he said people have been asking him if he is prepared to possibly take on Governor Dannel Malloy.
“I say I’m raising three teenagers, two of them are girls,” McKinney said, getting laughs from the crowd.
On a more serious note, McKinney said politicians fight hard on the issues that matter to them, and many politicians won’t agree with each other, but “when the day is done, it isn’t personal.”
United States Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) was at the event, and said he feels right at home when he is at Lake Compounce, and at the annual Crocodile Club event.
“It feels like the Senate, we sit around for hours and at the end of the day we’ve done nothing,” Blumenthal joked. “Washington (D.C.) is like the carousel, it goes round, and round and round.”
The annual dinner is catered by Nuchies and includes lamb, corn, potatoes, and watermelon for dessert. Many say it is a friendly way to end the summer, just before election time goes into full gear.