On Tuesday morning, some familiar faces around West Hartford took on the role of wait staff at Effie’s Place on Park Road to raise money for the Park Road Parade.
By Lauren Cohen. Photos by Ronni Newton
On Tuesday morning, June 11, about 23 of West Hartford’s biggest names donned aprons at Effie’s Place on Park Road for the annual Celebrity Breakfast fundraiser, bringing in money for the Park Road Parade.
Participants included Town Council members, town staff, business owners, individuals from area schools, local celebrities, and more.
The parade will take place on October 5 this year, according to Tony Landino, organizer of the event. Landino was excited about another year of success at the Celebrity Breakfast. John Paindiris, owner of Effie’s Place, said that $2,000 was raised through the event – a sum he was very pleased with considering that it was pouring rain first thing in the morning.
The parade costs about $8,000 total to put on, and with the Paindiris’ generosity in giving 100 percent of the breakfast’s proceeds to the cause, Landino says that this fundraiser is a “big down payment” on the parade, “which is key.”
A few weeks after the breakfast event is when Landino typically starts soliciting for sponsors of the parade. He usually gets around 15 sponsors yearly, with donations from each ranging from $20 to $500. Every penny counts, he said.
Landino is excited about something new for the parade that will be really “neat this year.”
This year the parade’s grand marshal will not be “somebody that’s really well known” with “facial recognition” around town, but instead an “unsung hero”… “someone who’s a driving force for the big personalities … from the inside,” said Landino.
For example, it may be someone who is a blogger or owner of a Facebook page that connects people around town, or someone working more “behind the scenes” for the town with a more administrative standpoint. It will be someone who “makes the big names work,” said Landino.
Be sure to look out for more information on this in the coming weeks as Landino campaigns for the 2019 grand marshal.
At Tuesday morning’s event, many West Hartford “celebrities” could be found not only serving, but dining as well. Ryan Keating of Keating Agency Insurance and John Lyons, “weather guru” of the popular Neighbors & Friends in West Hartford, were among the celebrities.
Although you couldn’t quite tell if these two were slacking on their serving duties to chat or not, they had some great things to say about the fundraiser and the Park Road community as a whole.
“Park Road is a great asset to the town,” said Keating, talking about its walkability to other parts of town like close-by neighborhoods and the Center. There’s an “amazing business community on Park Road,” Keating stated. “That’s a fact.”
Lyons spoke of the diversity of businesses that are found along Park Road, saying there are “so many more diverse businesses here that could never make it in the Center,” referring to the high cost of rent in West Hartford Center. There are many “long-standing businesses,” said Lyons. They will likely stay that way with new apartments being put in down the road, increasing walkability, added Keating.
It is so true that “Park Road offers so much that other parts of town don’t,” as Lyons puts it.
Both men enjoy the Celebrity Breakfast event each year because of the “camaraderie” and opportunity for socializing that it offers. As Lyons called it, the event is a “microcosm of what a great community we live in.”
For Kristin Gorski, the Town of West Hartford’s economic development specialist, the Celebrity Breakfast fundraiser is just an extension of the work that she does for the town every day. Gorski says she regularly works with the Park Road Association as a “link to support the business community” and create “overlap and cohesion.”
Her work to “diversify and assist” the growing Park Road community is very important, and something that translates exactly into what Landino is trying to do with this fundraiser and the Park Road Parade as a whole – create an even stronger sense of community in this town.
Gorski thinks the event is “fun because West Hartford is so supportive … Park Road is the closest-knit community here” in town, she said, adding that she was nervous to serve real customers a few years ago when she participated in the breakfast for the first time.
Patti Albee, the woman behind the Facebook page Neighbors & Friends of West Hartford, is considered by many to be one of the most influential people in town. On Tuesday morning, though, she was part of the wait staff at Effie’s Place, serving customers from the special Celebrity Menu.
Albee says she “remembers why the Park Road Parade was started and why,” and this is the reason that she participates in events like this one. It’s a “fun community builder,” she said. Not only does it bring the West Hartford community together, but it also helps to promote Neighbors & Friends, she added.
Albee started Neighbors & Friends in 2012 to create more cohesion and awareness of what’s happening around town, and thinks it’s a positive, good, and helpful resource for the town.
The page often shines an important spotlight on businesses such as those on Park Road, and expands the tight-knit West Hartford community by spreading information about events and more that bring people together.
Overall, the morning was a success. Customers left full and happy, and it gave the community a great opportunity to socialize, and discuss ideas for Park Road and the parade while raising money along the way.
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