BRISTOL - Issues were set aside as many politicians took to the microphone for the 136th Annual Crocodile Club reunion dinner Thursday.
The dinner, which is held at Lake Compounce every year, is a gathering of politicians from both sides of the aisle that put politics aside to enjoy a roast-style event that as they cracked jokes at one another.
The speakers included Bristol Mayor Ken Cockayne, state Sen. Joe Markley, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal and U.S. Rep. John Larson.
The event was created in 1875 by Gad Norton as a token of appreciation for local politicians who helped him move the town line between Bristol and Southington so the amusement park, which he also began, was completely in Bristol.
To thank the politicians for their help, Gad organized the dinner and served lamb and cigars to everyone involved; a tradition that still lives on today.
Julie Norton, a direct descendant of Gad, explained that her father, Stretch Norton, was the last member of the family to organize the annual event.
“It’s an important event to have every year and keep with traditions. I am happy that it is still continued and to see a younger generation of people here,” she said. “I’m proud to be involved and hope to maybe add more of a Norton flare in the future.”
Louise DeMars, executive director of the New England Carousel Museum, said that after Stretch passed away the museum asked the Norton family if it could continue to organize the event in his memory, which it has since.
“It’s an important event to maintain the tradition. It puts a spotlight on Bristol on this day, and puts Bristol on the map,” she said. “People are brought to tears from laughing at this event, and we are looking for the opportunity for people to poke fun.
“It’s a special time with politicians and a reminder that places like Lake Compounce and the carousel museum are important parts of this community. We are also very lucky that Jerry Brick, the general manager of Lake Compounce, supports us.”
Jenn Bernstein, news anchor for Fox 61 and co-anchor of “The Real Story,” was this year’s emcee at the reunion dinner.
“It is an honor to be the emcee. I was excited when I got the call,” Bernstein said. “It’s a different type of event, one without politics. Everyone wants to laugh a little and it brings both sides of the aisle together.”
Cockayne, who attends the event every year, noted it’s a time to put politics aside.
“Politicians from both sides come together and have a good time,” he said. “There is a sense of camaraderie because you see and catch up with people from around the state that you don’t get to usually see.”
Manager at the museum, Morgan Urgo, explained that about 120 tickets were sold prior to the event, but tickets were still being sold at the door.
She added that Lake Compounce donated the space and food, and the proceeds will be used to support the carousel museum’s operations.
“It’s a great fundraiser that highlights special Bristol traditions,” Urgo said. “Lake Compounce is home to one of the oldest carousels, which is about 170 years old.”
Lorenzo Burgio can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 860-584-0501 x5088.