Politicians keep tradition alive at Crocodile Club Dinner

By Lisa Capobianco
Staff Writer
For 133 years now, a multitude of individuals have gathered at Lake Compounce to put aside their political differences over a traditional dinner of lamb and corn with all the trimmings.
Last Friday, local and state officials did just that in the amusement park’s ballroom to celebrate the history of the Crocodile Club, which originated in 1875 when former legislator Gad Norton decided to thank his colleagues in the State Legislature for helping pass a law that changed the town line between Bristol and Southington to put his farmhouse in Bristol, according to a press release from the New England Carousel Museum, which sponsored the event. Norton, who started Lake Compounce in 1846, made that request so he could vote in Bristol where he traded, knew more people, and had a shorter travel distance, the release stated.
The reunion dinner began with a social hour at noon, followed by dinner and a lively program with guest speakers who made one-liners and jokes without making serious political speeches. When Norton served as the host of the dinner, he dictated to guests that “there will be no serious politics allowed, no post-mortems from the last legislative session—just pleasant sociability, good fun, and good food,” according to the release.
“This is my first time here,” said Democratic State Representative Dave Zoni, who is running for reelection this year for 81st District. “It is a huge tradition, and I’m looking forward to seeing my colleagues and some good humor.”
Former Town Councilor Al Natelli, the Republican candidate for the House of Representatives seat in the 81st District, has attended the dinner at least three or four times. For Natelli, the event gives him an opportunity to have a few laughs without taking the conversations seriously.
“It is always a good time,” said Natelli. “It’s all for a great cause.”
State elected officials like Governor Dannel Malloy and Lieutenant Governor Nancy Wyman also made a grand entrance at the dinner, shaking hands and laughing with the crowd. Wyman said her favorite part of the dinner is “seeing some of the old-timers” who have attended the event for years.
Malloy said he not only looks forward to the entertaining aspect of the event, but also enjoys showing his support for the Carousel Museum.
The event served as a fundraiser for the museum, a non-profit educational organization that aims “to preserve and protect antique wooden carousels and carousel pieces.”
Besides the Carousel Museum itself, visitors can enjoy a ride on the Carousel, the Museum of Fire History, and The Museum of Greek Culture and fine art galleries. The museum also provides space for different activities, including private tours, birthday parties, facility rentals, group sleepovers and meetings.
“It is a good cause,” said Malloy, who has visited the museum. “I understand the great work they do.”
In 2010, the Carousel Museum received permission from the Norton family to resurrect the Crocodile Club, after the event took an eight-year hiatus. Since then, the museum has committed to the tradition established by the Norton family for Lake Compounce, which is the oldest operating amusement park nationwide.
Vicky Biondi, president of the Carousel Museum’s Board of Directors, distributed raffle tickets to each guest during the event. Serving the Carousel Museum for seven to eight years now, Biondi said her favorite part of the event is seeing the “camaraderie” between the politicians, as well as seeing the tradition of the event itself be carried on.
“It is hosted at Lake Compounce where Gad Norton started it so many years ago, so there is a lot of history,” said Biondi. “The Carousel Museum is delighted to revive it.”

By Tammi Naudus Southington Town Council Chairman Michael Riccio, right, talks with  Gov. Dannel Malloy and Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman during the Crocodile Club Dinner last week.

By Tammi Naudus
Southington Town Council Chairman Michael Riccio, right, talks with Gov. Dannel Malloy and Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman during the Crocodile Club Dinner last week.

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