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Conny’s Tail Soon to be Installed in New West Hartford Location

The tail of Conny the whale was successfully severed and removed from the former Children's Museum Property in West Hartford on Tuesday, April 11, 2023. Photo credit: Ronni Newton (we-ha.com file photo)

Site work will begin this week with the installation expected to take place before the end of May.

A hillock behind Whole Foods, just north of the intersection of Trout Brook Drive and Memorial Road, has been identified as the site for the installation of Conny’s tail. Photo credit: Ronni Newton (we-ha.com file photo)

By Ronni Newton

Conny’s tail, which was successfully severed from the rest of the cement sculpture of a life-sized giant sperm whale just over a year ago and transported from the site of the former Children’s Museum at 950 Trout Brook Drive to temporary storage at the West Hartford Public Works facility on Brixton Street, will soon be on the move again – this time to a permanent new location on a hillock along the Trout Brook Greenway.

Site work is expected to begin this week, and on Thursday, May 23, construction equipment will be delivered to the new site, which is located between Whole Foods and Trout Brook Drive, a spokesperson for Cetacean Society International (CSI) said in an email on Tuesday.

The installation of the tail in its new location is expected to take place between 10 a.m. and noon on Wednesday, May 29.

Representation of Conny’s tail installation along the Trout Brook Greenway. Courtesy of Cetacean Society International, CSI)

The tale of the tail won’t quite come to an end at that point, however, because an official dedication ceremony will be planned for this fall.

Permits have been obtained and CSI has obtained funding, which included $38,000 from the state announced last June, for the relocation of the tail, and funds raised through a “Save Conny the Whale!” GoFundMe campaign that CSI had launched in September 2022 will also be used to pay for the move and installation.

The GoFundMe had originally been intended to support saving and relocating the entire Conny sculpture, but estimates ranged from $200,000 to $250,000 to move the entire 60-foot, 20-ton life-size replica of a giant sperm whale that had stood sentry in front of the Children’s Museum since the mid-1970s. In addition, no one knew for sure if the move could even be accomplished without damaging the entire structure.

Dan Barstow, a member of the CSI Board of Directors, said he liked the location along the greenway because it has great visibility from Trout Brook Drive. The vision is to “look like Conny’s just swimming away to freedom and the spirit of Conny stays alive,” Barstow said on the day of the tail’s removal. “We’re going to have it landscaped to look like waves are going around it, to really keep that spirit.”

Barstow is the son of Dr. Robbins Barstow, co-founder of what was then the Connecticut Cetacean Society and is now CSI. Barstow’s father led the effort to build Conny – nicknamed for “Connecticut” – in West Hartford, using all volunteers, and donated materials. Construction of Conny, which was made from concrete attached to rebar (structural steel), was completed in 1976.

The piece of the tail that was removed on April 11, 2023 is roughly 15 feet long, by 6 feet wide, by 10 feet deep, Barstow estimated. According to the scale on the rigging used in the process, the tail weighs 8,500 pounds.

Conny’s tail, on the back of a flatbed truck, heads down Trout Brook Drive on April 11, 2023. Photo credit: Ronni Newton (we-ha.com file photo)

The whale was constructed – by hand – beginning in 1975 by an all-volunteer effort by what at the time was the Connecticut Cetacean Society, now CSI. At the time the impetus for building the whale was to raise awareness about the plight of the whales – which had been hunted to near extinction – and the global devastation being caused by the impact of whaling.

Whales propel themselves forward by flexing their tails up and down, and while Conny’s tail is not expected to be moved again after this relocation, it will remain an important symbol. “Conny is a reminder that although we may not always be able to win the battle for whale conservation, we can still make progress,” CSI said in a previous statement about the move. “This next stage of Conny will remain a symbol of conservation, a beloved part West Hartford’s history, and a symbol of the community’s commitment to protecting wildlife and the environment.”

The Children’s Museum relocated to the grounds of Emanuel Synagogue on Mohegan Drive in West Hartford in the fall of 2022.

Continental Properties, now the owner of the former Children’s Museum property is in the process of constructing a 172-unit luxury apartment building on the site, and covered the cost of cutting off Conny’s tail and moving it to Public Works last April.

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