By TAYLOR MURCHISON-GALLAGHER
Southington Town Manager Mark Sciota stood up and wagged his finger at Bristol mayor Ellen Zoppo-Sassu jokingly.
“I have to correct the Mayor, I believe that way is Bristol, so, welcome to Southington everyone,” replied Sciota.
Don’t worry, the two town leaders weren’t in a real argument at the annual Corcodile Club picnic at Lake Compounce.
Zoppo-Sassu had just shared the origin story for the annual event for the group of gathered politicians that including state Senator Joe Markley (and Republican candidate for lieutenant governor), Southington’s town manager, and Bristol’s mayor.
“I think it’s so great to see us back in the ballroom filled with people, and I really hope this is a tradition that continues to endure,” said Zoppo-Sassu. “It’s also a great celebration of the liberation of this little notch of Lake Compounce from the tyranny and taxation of Southington, and I encourage all of you to really enjoy the gem that is Lake Compounce.”
That drew Sciota to his feet in mock retaliation. For 137 years, the good natured rivalry between neighboring towns has been the central theme of the picnic. On Friday, Aug. 31, Sciota was one of Southington’s defenders.
NBC Connecticut political reporter, Max Reiss, hosted the event, which was put on by the New England Carousel Museum.
The Crocodile Club was started by Gad Norton in 1875, who opened Lake Compounce in 1846, explained executive director of the New England Carousel Museum, Louise DeMars.
“[Gad Norton] originally had a toe in Southington and a toe in Bristol with his business, and he wanted to lean more toward Bristol,” said DeMars. “So he invited in all sorts of politicians for a lunch and during that lunch he talked them into moving the Bristol-Southington line, which is certainly an issue even to this day. And, they did vote to move the line, and he continued to do business in Bristol, which is where he wanted to be.”
The land in dispute is the noticeable notch on Southington’s north border that includes the amusement park. The lake and the parking lot, however, are still within Southington’s confines.
DeMars said the event is “all about fun,” and that you can expect to see “politicians coming together,” where they can make fun of each other, but no serious politics can be discussed.
Also in attendance were Democrat Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman, GOP gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski, Jennifer Nye (Republican candidate for the congressional first district), Matthew Corey (Republican candidate for U.S. Senate), Monte Frank (independent candidate for lieutenant governor), Susan Chapman (Republican candidate for secretary state), and J.R. Romano (state Republican party chairman).
“I love the history and I love the tradition. It’s something that could really be spotlighting Bristol, it’s yet one more thing that’s part of Bristol’s history that kind of fell along the wayside, and I thought if there’s an opportunity to bring it back, let’s take a shot and see what happens,” explained DeMars, of how the Carousel Museum took over the Crocodile Club from the Norton family, when Stretch Norton was no longer able to put on the event.