Classics and hot rods mingle with muscle cars in the parking lot at Spada’s Café. Photo: Dave Burnham.
Veterans Honored at Memorial Day Car Show
CROMWELL - Though Mother Nature was determined to put a damper on Cromwell’s Second Annual Memorial Day Car Show Friday, May 30, she graciously held the rain in check long enough for hundreds of visitors to pack the historic Main Street. They enjoyed the beauty of the classic vehicles, the offerings of the shops and restaurants and two special presentations made to World War II Navy veteran Sal Rosano.

       Former first selectwoman Mertie Terry spearheaded a movement that established an annual award to honor a town veteran for his or her patriotism and service, and state Rep. Christie Carpino and Mayor Enzo Faienza were on hand to present Rosano with the first Veteran’s Award.

       Rosano served his country as an electrician’s mate aboard an LST (landing ship, tank) in the Pacific theater of battle. He also received a handmade quilt from the Quilts of Valor Foundation, an organization established to provide veterans and combat service members who have been touched by war with a comforting and healing Quilt of Valor. Jane Dougherty, the Connecticut coordinator for the Quilts of Valor Foundation, presented the 90-year-old veteran with the symbol of a grateful nation’s heartfelt appreciation.

       “We felt that the highlight of the car show was the presentation of the Veteran’s Award and the Quilt of Valor to Sal Rosano,” according to Town Planner Stuart Popper. “It was really quite moving. We were so pleased with Mertie Terry’s idea to present an award to honor one of our veterans that we decided to make it an annual part of our Memorial Day Car Show because our show is a salute to our veterans.

       “We had about 65 cars in attendance, and our numbers were down because of the weather. The rain came and ended our car show early so we’re hoping for better weather next year,” said Popper.

       “We want people to come down and see what Cromwell is all about,” Faienza said, as he mingled with car show attendees. “We’re proud of the wonderful restaurants and businesses down here--including some new retail merchants--so we’re trying to stimulate business. We encourage people who come down for the Memorial Day ceremonies and parade to join us and be part of the car show, which is sponsored by our very active Downtown Merchants Association and the town.

       David Werblow made the short drive from Portland to display his 1954 MG TF 1250cc Roadster.

       “I don’t consider myself to be a veteran,” said Werblow, who served in the Air Force from 1958-60. “I consider the men and women who served in the First World War, the Second World War, Korea and Vietnam, and those now in the military in Afghanistan to be veterans. I saw an ad for the car show and I’m pleased to be here to honor our veterans.

       “I got this car in 2000 from a barn in northern Connecticut. It was owned by a gentleman who has an international MG business. The car came in boxes, a lot of boxes,” he said with a smile.

       Herb Caso’s 852 Auburn turns heads wherever he takes it.

       “They made just 13 Auburns with this body style in 1936 and almost 80 years later, there are probably only a half dozen left,” said the Cromwell resident.

       “I bought this car in 1981 in Frankfort, NY. I was looking for an Auburn and I saw this one in Hemmings Motor News. Auburns speak for themselves as far as classy cars go.

       “The car had around 60,000 miles when I bought it and I’ve put on over 4,000 miles driving it around town and taking it to car shows. I’ve done a 100 percent restoration myself--every nut and bolt--which took about 12 years. These cars are hard to find parts for,” said Caso.

       “We’re trying to build awareness of our downtown area by offering community events and family entertainment that don’t cost anything,” said Rodney Bitgood, owner of Cromwell Automotive, co-chair of the Downtown Merchants Association and the driving force behind the car show.

       “I would like to thank the Town of Cromwell for co-sponsoring our event,” added Bitgood, “as well as the many businesses who donated money or time to the Downtown Merchants Association. It takes a lot of time and planning for an event like this and a lot of volunteers.”

       A portion of the car show proceeds will benefit Jensen’s Fund, a local non-profit established by Fred and Cindy Lynn after the death of their young son from a brain aneurysm in 2003. The fund supports the building of Sir Jensen’s Court, a handicapped accessible playground at Pierson Park.

       “We appreciate the efforts of the many volunteers--like Rodney Bitgood, Cara Ehlers of Liberty Bank, Jay Diclemente of Brothers Landscaping and Jay Polke of Willowbrook Spirit Shoppe--needed to put on an event like the car show,” said Popper. “We couldn’t have done it without all of our volunteers as well as the cooperative effort of the town and the police department.”

       There’s no rest for Popper and the Cromwell Downtown Merchants Association, who are already busy planning their next event. Halloween on Main is scheduled for Friday, Oct. 24, from 4 " 8 p.m. with a rain date of Oct. 25.

       “Halloween on Main is always a big success. It grows and gets bigger every year. We encourage everyone to come out and enjoy this fun event,” Popper added.