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PHOTO — People gather in Old Grove Park to commemorate West Haven’s 100th birthday Thursday, June 24 — 100 years to the day of West Haven’s incorporation by the General Assembly as Connecticut’s youngest town. The West Haven Centennial Celebration kicked off with a 1980s tribute concert performed by The Pop Rocks. (City Drone Photo/Alycia Sandella)
WEST HAVEN, June 25, 2021 — Westies young and old, many donning blue and white, gathered in Old Grove Park to help their beloved West Haven blow out the figurative candles on its 100th birthday Thursday, June 24.
Amid a cool breeze and a spectacular strawberry sunset, The Pop Rocks, “Connecticut’s ultimate ’80s experience,” kick-started the West Haven Centennial Celebration by interacting with the audience while playing a two-hour set of totally awesome hits — 100 years to the day of West Haven’s incorporation by the General Assembly as Connecticut’s youngest municipality.
The showstopping performance, presented by the City of West Haven Centennial Celebration Committee, put the icing on the cake for a birthday bash 100 years in the making and left partygoers clamoring for more.
And there is more — much more, said committee Chairwoman Beth A. Sabo, the city’s commissioner of human resources.
Mayor Nancy R. Rossi, the committee’s honorary chairwoman, recently announced a six-month series of free concerts, historical exhibits and fireworks — headlined by the long-awaited return of the Savin Rock Festival in the Grove on Friday and Saturday, July 30-31 — to commemorate West Haven’s 1921 birth.
Rossi, West Haven’s first female mayor, opened the centennial kickoff by welcoming concertgoers to the 151-year-old Grove and congratulating her fellow Westies on the community’s 100th anniversary.
The ceremony observed West Haven’s secession from Orange a century ago. West Haven and North Milford joined in 1822 to form the town of Orange. The rural and residential sections of Orange separated in 1921 when the residential part, West Haven, became the state’s youngest town.
After remarks by city Treasurer Michael P. Last, the master of ceremonies, The Pop Rocks hit the stage running — and sporting the era-defining fashion that was all the rage.
The five-piece band opened with a medley of Europe’s “The Final Countdown” and Loverboy’s “Working for the Weekend” and followed with an array of the best pop and rock from the decade of decadence, including Madonna’s “Material Girl,” Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer” and Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’.”
Men, women and children from all walks of life danced the night away, including forming an impromptu conga line with the band while performing Buster Poindexter’s “Hot Hot Hot.”
Rossi and other city leaders walked through the crowd, waving to and chatting with residents they serve. Around the historic Grove, decorative blue-and-white centennial banners blew in the wind.
It was a good night for West Haven — and a great night for families to come together as friends and neighbors for a sense of normalcy in an otherwise abnormal year.
West Haveners, like so many others nationwide, have been plagued with cabin fever caused by the coronavirus pandemic, and the musical entertainment provided a refreshing release from the uncertainty of the year.
The Westie pride on display demonstrated the best of the American spirit, reflecting the determination and resilience of a people who vowed to never lose hope — so much so they adopted “nil desperandum,” a Latin phrase meaning “never despair,” as West Haven’s official motto in 1935.
People showed their patriotic colors by purchasing centennial coins, lapel pins and lawn signs from Sabo and committee member Diane Dietman at the hospitality table.
Each person who bought a $10 lawn sign will get entered into a raffle for a chance to push a “start button” to help launch this year’s fireworks. The winner and up to three guests will also dine on burgers and hot dogs under the Savin Rock Fireworks Committee’s hospitality tent before and during the display.
All merchandise proceeds generated by the centennial committee will offset expenses and support the $50,000 centennial budget approved by the City Council, Sabo said.
Local vendor JOD Designs, a veteran-owned screen printing company, sold centennial T-shirts.
To coincide with the kickoff, the city clerk’s office started distributing centennial diaper bags to the first 100 West Haven babies born on or after June 24.
The yellow-and-brown diaper bags were made possible by the West Haven Child Development Center and the West Haven Community House through a donation from the Eder family.
Each bag of donated supplies contains essential provisions for parents of newborns. Call the city clerk’s office for details at 203-937-3535.
Although June 24 marked West Haven’s official incorporation, the committee earlier this month commenced the community’s anniversary festivities with a West Haven Historical Society exhibit, “From Village to Town,” followed by the Centennial Boat Parade and a Juneteenth event, called West Haven Celebrates Juneteenth.
The exhibit included maps chronicling the growth and development of West Haven, formerly known as West Farms, from a Colonial settlement in 1648 to its evolution as a separate town in 1921.
The Centennial Savin Rock Festival will showcase West Haven’s past 100 years and the “sights, sounds, smells and tastes” that made the 20th-century Savin Rock Park “the playground of New England.” Details are forthcoming.
The 2021 fireworks, billed as “They Will Be Heard on the 3rd,” will launch off Bradley Point Park at 8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 3, with a rain date of Saturday, Sept. 4.
The display, moved from July 3 to Labor Day weekend to safely accommodate the many throngs expected, is sponsored by the centennial committee and the fireworks committee.
Before the fireworks, people of all ages can shake, rattle and roll to funk and rock music played by the Kathy Thompson Band in front of Savin Rock from 6-8 p.m.
For a complete list of centennial events, see the Schedule. For centennial merchandise, visit the official Online Store.
The store, hosted by West Haven vendor West Shore Associates, sells such centennial-branded merchandise as long- and short-sleeved T-shirts, hooded sweatshirts, stainless steel tumblers, stemless wine glasses, insulated beverage bottles, ceramic mugs, retro sunglasses, canvas and cotton tote bags, eco-performance face masks, and pigment-dyed twill and mesh trucker caps.
A portion of the vendors’ merchandise proceeds will support the centennial account, Sabo said.
Watch the West Haven Centennial Celebration kickoff concert on West Haven YouTube.
— MICHAEL P. WALSH, Public Relations Information Coordinator
People gather in Old Grove Park to commemorate West Haven’s 100th birthday Thursday, June 24 — 100 years to the day of West Haven’s incorporation by the General Assembly as Connecticut’s youngest town. The West Haven Centennial Celebration kicked off with a 1980s tribute concert performed by The Pop Rocks. (City Drone Photo/Alycia Sandella)
The Pop Rocks with West Haven Mayor Nancy R. Rossi and city Treasurer Michael P. Last, the centennial kickoff event’s master of ceremonies. (City Photo/Michael P. Walsh)
Rossi welcomes people to the Grove and congratulates her fellow Westies on the community’s 100th anniversary. (City Photo/Michael P. Walsh)
An aerial view of concertgoers. (City Drone Photo/Alycia Sandella)
Partygoers form an impromptu conga line with members of The Pop Rocks, “Connecticut’s ultimate ’80s experience.” (City Photo/Michael P. Walsh)
Parents and children dance to the music. (City Photo/Michael P. Walsh)
The Pop Rocks hit a high note. (City Photo/Michael P. Walsh)
The band entertains the all-ages crowd. (City Photo/Michael P. Walsh)
The lead guitarist performs. (City Photo/Alycia Sandella)
Beth A. Sabo, the chairwoman of the City of West Haven Centennial Celebration Committee, flashes a smile while selling centennial coins, lapel pins and lawn signs. (City Photo/Alycia Sandella)
The drummer atop his kit, drumstick twirling in hand. (City Photo/Michael P. Walsh)
The lead singer dances with an audience member. (City Photo/Michael P. Walsh)
The frontman interacts with the crowd. (City Photo/Michael P. Walsh)
The lead singer performs with an audience member. (City Photo/Alycia Sandella)
A fan is brought onstage for some fun. (City Photo/Michael P. Walsh)
People hit the dance floor. (City Photo/Michael P. Walsh)
Night falls on the stage. (City Photo/Michael P. Walsh)