None of the speakers drew the audience’s attention to the Southington placard at the head table of the Crocodile Club last Friday. Nobody commented on the unopened bottle of water or the empty chair behind it. Nobody talked about Southington’s absence at the 138th annual event at the Lake Compounce Ballroom. But it was like a white elephant in the room. The cardboard sign with stark black letters was the only reference to the needless snub by Southington officials.
The Crocodile Club is one of the most unique events in the state. It’s sometimes silly; sometimes confusing; but it’s become a long-lasting tradition with Southington and Bristol at the center of the show. Throughout the years, it’s drawn federal, state, and local politicians. It’s drawn a long list of political wonks, and more than a few public figures. It even drew Mark Twain to one of its earlier installments to see what the commotion was all about.
The annual event focuses on the history behind that noticeable notch on Southington’s northern border with Bristol. The Crocodile Club was started by former legislator Gad Norton in 1875 as a way to thank members of the state legislature for carving out his land—where he opened Lake Compounce in 1846—for the City of Bristol. The reason Norton made the request was so that he could vote in Bristol where he did all his trading and knew more people. Crocodile Club officials say that, in those days of horses and buggies, the three-mile drive to Bristol was a lot easier than the six-mile trek to Southington’s town green.
For 138 years, the traditional luncheon of goat and roasted corn has offered a chance for speakers to lay aside political differences and have a little fun. With the Bristol-Southington land grab at the center of the festivities, it’s become a fun day in the state spotlight for Southington and Bristol officials, as well as a chance to partner with one of the town’s biggest attractions—the oldest continuously operating amusement park in the United States.
We were disappointed to see that Southington skipped this year’s affair. One of the highlights last year was the mock rivalry between Town Manager Mark Sciota and the Bristol mayor. Sciota’s finger wagging drew a lot of laughter at last year’s roast. We know that these sorts of events can be awkward and inconvenient, but we also think that any time Southington has a chance to be positively showcased, we should do it with pride…even if it’s inconvenient.
Bristol brought their contingency with the sitting mayor, her Republican opponent, and even a former city mayor. They brought former state officials, business owners, and a host of residents. After all, that’s what Bristol has done for 138 years.
Southington brought nobody. That was disappointing.
To comment on this story or to contact Southington Observer editor John Goralski, email him at JGoralski@SouthingtonObserver.com.