Today was Bart's "guy" day. He and his good buddy Steve decided to take a nostalgia trip to the campus of the University of Connecticut (AKA UConn) - their alma mater. UConn is located in the small town of Storrs (population 16,392) in bucolic Northeast Connecticut. Driving around the campus, it became CLEAR that it ain't the same place they graduated from a million years ago. New buildings abound and many more are under construction.
Photo credit Peter Morenus
Despite all the shiny new buildings, Bart and Steve still have affection for the places they lived in/knew as students, including "The Jungle" where Bart lived freshman year.
Bart somehow got elected President of the Student Government his senior year (flash back to his freshman year when he managed to get a 1.5 GPA and then dropped out his sophomore year before flunking out). As class President two years later, he was given an office and staff in the Student Union. This entrance way is about the only original thing left from the old Union.
As rabid UConn sports fans, we had to go visit the site of so many amazing Husky basketball games - women's and men's: Gampel Pavilion.
How lucky are we to have graduated from this University "in the sticks" which - aside from providing us a great education - has produced many championship teams in basketball, soccer (Steve was a member of the varsity soccer team back in the day), baseball, field hockey and, perhaps soon, hockey. ! Check out the new hockey arena. That's Steve photobombing this photographer's work.
BY THE WAY...you heard it here first. USA Today ran a national contest to determine which U.S. college was the best for sports fans. On September 1st it will officially announce that the University of Connecticut is #1 (no haters please from fans of the schools in the so-called Power Five conferences).
Having filled our college nostalgia "cups", we headed out to the next small town on our itinerary - Coventry (population approximately 12,500). It's a really interesting place, with several different "personalities". Agriculture is definitely alive and living there.
We toured the town's vibrant historic district (a member of the CT Main Street Program), which has done an excellent job of preserving buildings, promoting Coventry's history and celebrating local arts.
The district is home to some gorgeous, architecturally significant historic buildings.
The showstopper in the historic district - at least on this day for Bart and Steve - was the Bidwell Tavern, circa 1822.
Don't get me wrong. "The Bid", a unique restaurant, is pretty cool historically and architecturally...
However, it's these bad boys that were the center of attention (not just for us, but for people who come from miles away). It's wings are to die for - and maybe some have...-).
Coventry's history is one for the books. In fact, it's in most history books. Patriot Nathan Hale, who was a member of the Continental Army during the America Revolution, grew up in Coventry. He was convicted as a spy and hanged by the British at age 21. His family homestead - circa 1740 - is a Connecticut Landmark
Courtesy CT Landmarks
My friend and colleague John Elsesser has been the Town Manager of Coventry for 35 years (he recently retired). He has worked well over the years with different town councils, public service volunteers, local nonprofits and other key stakeholders to help ensure the delivery of high quality municipal services. John also made a great impact on statewide policy affecting smaller communities, having served as a board member and President of the Council of Small Towns, a municipal advocacy group I was CEO of for 18 years.
Photo by Brandon D. Cross
It was getting to be time for these to road warriors to head home...BUT, not until one of us satisfied his sweet tooth here.
Shady Glenn Restaurant and Ice Cream Parlor opened in 1948 and is located on the outskirts of Bolton (population 4,890). Going there is like stepping back in time. The servers wear the 50's garb that makes it feel like it's from the set of the movie Pleasantville, where Jeff Daniels played the owner of an old ice cream shop.
One of the menu items it's literally famous for (featured on the Food Network and the Travel Channel episode called Burger Land) is its cheeseburger, called the “Bernice Original” (named for co-founder Bernice Rieg). The hamburger is grilled with four slices of American cheese laid atop in a square pattern overlapping the patty. The cheese becomes crunchy and is a meal unto itself (in fact, the crunchy cheese can be ordered as a separate item).
While they’re known for burgers, Shady Glen's homemade ice cream, produced on site) is a big hit too. Bart's mother loved their maple nut ice cream! Well, what a great day of nostalgia and explorations (AND WINGS). Next stop? Riverton, CT. Stay tuned..