The day brimmed with a spirit that suggested a zest for life. The French call it "joie de vivre" and that sums it up succinctly.
Vin Lavorgna, my buddy since the blissful days of childhood in Hamden, followed his heart. His love of the outdoors directed him toward forestry, which led him to West Virginia University, where he earned his degree and met his wife Janet. He runs Brooksvale Park on the Hamden-Cheshire line, a pastoral snapshot of diverse natural beauty.
On Saturday, the Lavorgnas and an able crew of part-timers and volunteers staged Brooksvale's annual Fall Festival. Children enjoyed nature-related activities and presentations. Adults enjoyed live, family-style music, food and a healthy dose of camraderie.
The foods, friends and music of my youth put my wife Lisa and I in the right spirit for what was to follow. The Brooksvale crew cleaned up the remnants of a long, enjoyable day of reveries and convened at the barn where the post-festival party began.
Janet has such joie de vivre that she could probably breathe life into a corpse. She sings in a band called Blue Trail, which plays a conglomerate of music inspired by folk, bluegrass and some classic rock that can be traced to the Grateful Dead.
Dale Long (no relation to the late ex-Pittsburgh Pirates first baseman who once hit 8 homers in 8 games) writes songs, strums his electric folk guitar and sings. Carl Legere plays lead guitar and sings. Janet sings and plays some guitar and fiddle. Dale's wife Cindy sings some lead and does wonderful harmonies.
Blue Trail (www.bluetrail.com) played a set during the day at the festival but that joie de vivre (enhanced by a few adult cocktails) enabled them to overcome any fatigue and they began strumming away in the barn. Their kids played blissfully. Their happy-go-lucky dog Jazz strolled in and out collecting pets and whatever morsels people may have dropped.
Dave DiMartino of North Haven, one of Vin's part-timers who doubles as a high school football and basketball official, brought his unique brand of joie de vivre. He cleaned up, he joined in the singing (a lyrical linesman?) and never stopped smiling.
Outside the barn, a campfire raged, warming the hearts and souls of folks who told some jokes and did some singing of their own.
Why do I bring it up? Everybody has parties, but it had such special meaning for me. I ran into so many people from my hometown who I hadn't seen in half a lifetime, something not everybody is fortunate enough to do.
The day started well, too. I was invited to the New Britain Sports Hall of Fame breakfast at Angelico's Restaurant to engage in a different kind of joie de vivre.
Dennis Beatty, the New Britain policeman and backbone of the renowned PAL Raiders Youth Football program, joined us. How many kids do you figure he's whisked off the streets and sent in the right direction through football? Enough to fill the grandstands at New Britain Stadium perhaps?
Bill Huber, the force behind the organization (www.NewBritainSportsHallofFame.com) since the passing of the legendary Don Clerkin, has captured the secret of staying young. Beatty and Huber are indeed inspirations in their respective endeavors.
My only regret was that I missed John Campanello's Wethersfield football team beating Windsor, which would have fanned the flames of my spirit in yet another way, but this was an autumn Saturday to remember. It reinforced something I already knew very well -- I have some great friends.