Southington’s year of milestones kicked off this week with the 80th annual Chamber of Commerce dinner at the Aqua Turf, so it was appropriate that YMCA director John Myers was one of the honorees. After all, this week also kicks off the 90th anniversary celebration for the Southington Community YMCA.
On Monday, May 7, the YMCA begins their celebration with a full week of activities, during which time the YMCA will be open to the public with a number of themed classes, events, and giveaways.
For nine decades, the YMCA has been an active member of the Southington community, and the organization has grown along with the town. When the YMCA opened its doors in 1928, Southington’s small-town population had just swelled to a whopping 9,000 people.
The organization began with a $14,000 bequest by Martha Neal. Fast forward 90 years, and the organization raises almost $350,000 during each annual campaign to fund scholarships and programs throughout the community.
When the YMCA opened, “Camp Sloper” was best known as the place that manufactured cement during the summer (making the first cement that could dry under water). In the winters, the Neals weren’t cutting the ice on the pond for the Sloper Plunge. They were harvesting it to be used by homes and businesses before the age of refrigeration.
A lot has changed since those early days. Southington has burgeoned into a bustling town of 44,000 (with more than 25,000 refrigerators), and the YMCA has expanded into a downtown campus the size of a city block.
Check them out at sccymca.org for their schedule of events, from aquatic-themed activities in the lobby on Monday to a family-themed birthday picnic at the YMCA learning center on Wednesday. Thursday brings health and wellness classes with giveaways, and Friday brings special teen activities. The opening week culminates with Sloper Day on Saturday, conplete with special hikes and activities at the East Street facility.
But the chamber dinner and the YMCA anniversary aren’t the only significant milestones that are being celebrated this year. On May 10, DePaolo Middle School will be celebrating a half century of schooling with a 50th anniversary celebration at the school (Kennedy Middle School opened four years earlier in 1964). At the time that DePaolo opened its doors in 1968, the late John Weichsel was in just his second year as Southington’s first town manager, and the council-manager form of government was still in its infancy.
This fall, the anniversary season will culminate with Southington’s 50th Apple Harvest Festival, and it should prove to be a golden apple jubilee! Southington has doubled in size since the first festival, but the “Apple Valley” still loves the small-town feel of its annual festival.
We love history at the Southington Observer. After all, we have covered each one of these stories for the last 43 years (55 years if you include the Southington Step Saver, which began printing on April 10, 1963). That’s why it was also appropriate that Susan Urillo Larson—a member of the Step Saver-Observer’s founding family—was also honored by the chamber last week. (Congratulations, Susan. You deserve to be honored as the 2018 Woman of the Year.)
Stay tuned for our coverage of these significant anniversary celebrations. It will continue throughout the year with a few summer series that we’re planning after school lets out.
To comment on this story or to contact Southington Observer editor John Goralski, email him at JGoralski@SouthingtonObserver.com.