Today Magazine • July 2022

Page 1

TODAY Covering the Heart of the Farmington Valley

CENTER STAGE

Resolving Town Center Debate JULY 2022

• WWW.TODAYPUBLISHING.NET


Today Magazine Wins 12 More SPJ Awards Special to Today Magazine

TODAY MAGAZINE has received 12 more awards this year from the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) — seven first-place, three second-place and two third-place prizes. No other publication in Connecticut received more first-place awards in the state SPJ’s Magazine division — Connecticut Magazine and Today Magazine won seven first-place honors apiece. The Connecticut SPJ Chapter presents awards annually via its Excellence in Journalism contest. Connecticut Magazine, with 21 awards, is the only state publication in the Magazine division to take home more awards than Today Magazine in 2022. This year’s contest honors journalism excellence during the 2021 calendar year. Today Magazine editor-in-chief Bruce Deckert won seven awards overall — four first-place, one second-place and two third-place honors. All told, he has received 18 SPJ awards in his career. Contributing writer Katherine Napier won three first-place awards with Today Magazine this year. A Canton High School alum, Napier graduated in May from the Massachusetts College of Liberal

CALENDAR

24 Awards in 4 Years for Today Publishing

Today won a first-place award for this cover layout — photo by Rick Warters Arts, where she served as co-editor of the student newspaper. Nishant Gopalachar, another Today contributing writer, likewise won a first-place award. He is in the Class of 2022 at Avon High School.

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“I’m so psyched that two of our student contributors have won first-place awards,” says Deckert, who also serves as Today’s publisher. “This is the second straight year that a high school student has won an award with Today Magazine in the professional SPJ contest — this is a high honor for a professional journalist, and even more so for a young writer.” In last year’s contest, Deckert received six awards but no first-place honor. Among Today Magazine’s nine awards last year, the only first-place went to contributing writer Noelle Blake, another Avon High School student in the Class of 2022. She also won a second-place award. So Avon High students have won firstplace awards with Today Magazine in back-to-back years. It is unknown whether Blake and Gopalachar are the youngest awardwinners ever in the SPJ’s Excellence in Journalism contest. The Connecticut SPJ doesn’t keep track of the ages of contestants or award recipients, according to an SPJ representative. “Awards can of course cut both ways,” continued on page 14

CLICK for TODAY ONLINE CALENDAR DUCK CAMARADERIE A female common merganser duck keeps her eight ducklings close — mergansers live mainly on freshwater rivers and lakes and dive underwater to catch fish

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Photo by Wendy Rosenberg


LEADING OFF

A Central Hope

CONTENTS COVER STORY

4 — Grand Central Debate

In the face of claims that Avon hasn’t really had a town center, two town leaders explain that in fact the town’s historic heart has been beating for 200-plus years HISTORY HIGHLIGHTS

6 — Front and Center

Let’s take a verbal journey to the intersection that has been Avon’s town center for two centuries SPOTLIGHT ON THE ARTS

9 — Artistic Staying Power

The Canton Artists’ Guild has been fostering and promoting local artists for more than six decades

IN THIS MONTH when we commemorate our nation’s independence, it’s an appropriate time for a cover story on a signature New England hallmark: the town center and green. Shared town spaces give a community a sense of identity and stability, and this reality is reflected in America’s colonial roots. Here in the Farmington Valley, such history is real and vibrant — yet vis-à-vis Avon’s center, some have claimed in recent years that the town had no true center until a new commercial development debuted last year. In this edition of Today Magazine, two town leaders from the Avon Historical Society set the record straight regarding this ongoing debate: The location of Avon’s town center is as clear as day — and has been crystal-clear for more than two centuries. Yes, correcting misconceptions for the public good is a key aspect of the journalistic enterprise. This is, shall we say, our central hope for this edition — BWD

VALLEY INTEL

12 — For The Birds

An 11-year-old chronicles his educational journey vis-à-vis feeding birds via growing native plants QUOTE OF THE MONTH

“The mission of the gallery founders has been visibly accomplished as witnessed by the networking of artists” — Canton Artists’ Guild BY THE NUMBERS

LETTERS

Gallery visitors per year — 1000+ newsroom@TodayPublishing.net

COVER STORY KUDOS Today Magazine’s June cover story featured five 100-year Farmington Valley businesses — CLICK HERE for the story THANK YOU for the story on 100-year businesses in the Valley. The article is great, and we appreciate you including us! — Brandi Kay • Director of Retail Operations • Harvey & Lewis Opticians YOUR STORY on Route 202 and the roads around here made me laugh. The reason there is a “Simsbury Road” in Avon, etc., is because they were named so that as you leave that town you were heading INTO that town. So Simsbury Road out of Avon goes into Simsbury. Many roads in CT are named like that. They lead to the next town by that name. — Terri Wilson • President • Avon Historical Society Thank you for publishing the story about my life and art career. The article looks and reads better than I could imagine. I was nervous about how personal a bio it is, but artists and the press are risk-takers by nature. I have sent the magazine to collectors, galleries and organizations, etc. — Edith Skiba LaMonica • Avon www.edithskibastudioart.com

Today Magazine • Covering the Heart of the Farmington Valley Bruce William Deckert — Publisher + Editor-in-Chief 860-988-1910 • Bruce.Deckert@TodayPublishing.net www.TodayPublishing.net > Digital Editions • Award-Winning Today Online • 24/7 news — www.TodayPublishing.net/blog Follow Today Magazine CT on social media > Advertising — Contact the Publisher Editorial Associate — Kayla Tyson Contributing Photographer — Wendy Rosenberg Five Towns • One Aim — Exceptional Community Journalism Farmington • Avon • Canton • Simsbury • Granby – CT • USA

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LETTERS POLICY Letters to the editor are welcome. Keep them brief: 100-150 words max. We reserve the right to edit for style and space considerations. Provide your full name, hometown, email and phone number — the phone and email won’t be published, unless you request this for promotional purposes. The publisher is a political independent, and that is the editorial stance of the magazine. Letters are welcome from across the political spectrum as long as they are civil and tasteful. SUBSCRIBE to TODAY for FREE — CLICK HERE TODAY MAGAZINE – www.TodayPublishing.net – JULY 2022

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CENTER STAGE Finding A Way: Resolving A Town Center Debate By Terri Wilson and Nora Howard Special to Today Magazine

THERE HAS BEEN a friendly debate for the past 10 years about this question: Where is Avon’s town center? In May 2012, an article in the former Avon Life magazine about the proposed Avon Village Center development — “Avon Will be Beating with a New Heart Soon” — mistakenly claimed that “Avon has never had a traditional New England Town Green, marked by a white church spire and surrounded by the town’s earliest buildings.” In February 2022, a town official repeated this thought in an article in Today Magazine when he said, “The town didn’t really have a center.” Most recently, The Valley Book wrote in its annual 2022-23 guide that the new Avon Village Center development is providing Avon “with a ‘proper’ center at long last.” We share Avon’s pride and excitement about the new commercial and residential development called Avon Village Center. However, Avon’s true town center has been right before us all along — and it is important to recognize this location and this heritage.

HEART OF TOWN HISTORY

The historical heart of a town matters, with its architecture, monuments, burying grounds and landscape. Author Thompson Mayes writes about the deep attachments we have to old places in “Why Old Places Matter: How Historic Places Affect Our Identity and Well-Being.” These are the places, he says, that help give us feelings of community, belonging, identity and stability. Since 1819, Avon’s traditional town center has been at the intersection of Routes 10 and 44 and Old Farms Road — for further details, see the sidebar story on page 6 entitled: Historic Intersection Centers Avon. An early reference to a town green occurred in the 1840s, when a town boy named Edward Kellogg watched Avon’s militia company performing its drills on “the green near the church.” While the size of Avon’s original green 4

COVER STORY HISTORY HIGHLIGHTS has been reduced with the widening of the surrounding roads, it is still flanked by buildings and landmarks that are among Avon’s oldest. On this original town green is the Avon Congregational Church (completed in 1819). Its soaring church spire and meetinghouse are surely the features of the “beating heart” of any New England town center. The meetinghouse is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Its addition to the list in 1972 is a high honor. Appropriately, the town center featured the busy Farmington Canal (1828-48) and the railroad — with the last train passing through in 1991. The canal site is also on the National Register of Historic Places. Its crossing of Route 44 is marked by two monuments erected by the Avon Historical Society. The rails-to-trails path, officially known as the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail, follows the old canal route. The building at 12 West Main Street (built circa 1830) housed the Farmington Canal offices. The O’Neill blacksmith and transportation business (established 1886) was in the white barn and home at 25 Simsbury Road (Route 10/202) across the street from the post office. Nearby was the Union Baptist Society Church (1817) — the building was later moved to 6 Old Farms Road. The School District #5 schoolhouse (1809) is at 15 Old Farms Road and is now a private residence. The home of 19thcentury photographer Clinton Hadsell is at 11 East Main Street. Oliver Gabriel’s house at 29 West Main Street was a safe house on the Underground Railroad. The peaceful East Avon Cemetery (1821) faces Route 10. The original Avon Free Public Library, a red-brick structure built in 1932 and used as a library until 1982, was at 17 West Main Street — today it is the Coco Lily store. The very active Prince Thomas of Savoy Society’s Italian Club (1917) is nearby on Old Farms Road. The repurposed Ensign-Bickford

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Courtesy Photos — Avon Historical Society

factory complex (1892) with its intentionally designed “indestructible” stone buildings anchors the western end of the town center. The sidewalk of the Route 10 corridor leading south into Avon is seasonally decorated with historical banners on vintage-style lampposts. They were designed precisely to recognize and celebrate the entryway to the town center.

GREEN SCENE

Remnants of the original town green are beside the Avon Congregational Church. Nearby on today’s official town green are the Avon Veterans Memorial (1996), the gazebo (1994) and the town hall campus (1971). The website for the Avon Recreation & Parks Department identifies this one-acre area, on West Main Street adjacent to town hall, as the town green.


ROAD RENAME

• Looking south in 1932, a mileage marker

stands at the crossroads of Avon’s town center with the Constitution pin oak nearby — still there today — and the post office at left

• The post office has since moved a stone’s throw north and this building was demolished— the DaCapo of Avon restaurant and several other businesses are at the intersection today • By the way — this is the current-day intersection where Route 10 and Old Farms Road meet Route 44, which was named in March 1935 after being known as Route 101 from 1932-34

Beside the gazebo is a state of Connecticut sign marking this location as the original transportation and commercial center of Avon. The sign was erected in 1979 by the town, the Avon Historical Society and the Connecticut Historical Commission. In March of this year, a regional gathering by Forward CT in support of Ukraine was held in this central spot by the gazebo on the Avon town green. The Memorial Day parade in May has honored our war dead for the past 77 years, weaving through this town center toward the town green and ending at the Veterans Memorial. The annual ceremony at the memorial in November honors our current military veterans. In 1902, the state of Connecticut gave every delegate to the Connecticut

Constitutional Convention a pin oak tree seedling. Avon’s delegate was Robert J. Holmes, a Civil War veteran who had been at Andersonville Prison, a Confederate prisoner-of-war camp. The town’s pin oak was planted, naturally, in the town center — at the intersection of Old Farms Road and Route 44. Avon’s tree, now over 120 years old, is listed on Connecticut’s Notable Trees register and is among the largest surviving Constitution pin oaks in the state. Avon historian Mary-Frances Mackie wrote in her landmark book “Avon, Connecticut” (1982) that this neighborhood was referred to as “Avon Center.” For more than 200 years, Avon’s “beating heart” has been right here. Slow down, take a look and feel part of this historic community. +

ON THE COVER

• Top Photo: A recent Veterans Day ceremony on the Avon town green with Avon residents, schoolchildren and VFW members — the Avon Congregational Church steeple is barely visible through the trees to the right, looking east • Bottom Photo: The town center in November 1899, looking north, with the church steeple more visible — larger photo + more info: pages 6-7

• Nora Howard is Avon’s town historian and the author of three books on Avon history — she began her tenure in 2005 and has been affiliated with the Avon Historical Society for nearly 25 years ————————————————————— • Terri Wilson is president of the Avon Historical Society (since 2008) and has been affiliated with AHS for 30 years — she won a first-place Connecticut SPJ award this year with Today Magazine in the team-effort Reporting Series category, with five other Today writers • SPJ – Society of Professional Journalists —————————————————————— CLICK HERE for Wilson’s award-winning story on Leverett Holden — an Avon resident and one of over 900 AfricanAmerican men who fought in the Civil War with the Connecticut 29th Regiment Volunteer Infantry (Colored) —————————————————————

TODAY MAGAZINE – www.TodayPublishing.net – JULY 2022

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Historic Intersection Centers Avon If It Takes a Village, Avon’s History is Alive and Well ————————————— Avon Village Center PHOTOS ————— PAGE 8 —————————————

By Bruce Deckert Editor-in-Chief • Today Magazine

THE FIRST PHASE of the Avon Village Center project officially debuted in September 2021 — construction began in 2015 — with the grand opening of anchor store Whole Foods Market. For the uninitiated, the project is a new commercial-and-residential complex located a stone’s throw from Route 44 (aka West Main Street) and another stone’s throw from Avon’s historic town center. Including center in the

center perspectives and interpretations and definitions — and Today Magazine concurs. As is the case with many storylines, a conundrum — indeed, an absurdity — is part of this central calculation. Paradoxically, Whole Foods Market and Avon Village Center are on different town

The reality is this — Avon Village Center is simply an extension of Avon’s historic town center that dates back two centuries project’s name — Avon Village Center — has sparked an ongoing issue connected to Avon’s history. This issue can be described in a variety of ways, via a number of synonymous nouns. Three such nouns have an essentially friendly connotation: dialogue, discourse, discussion. Three further nouns have a more contentious connotation: dispute, disagreement, debate. The term question also applies — and is likewise listed in the Google dictionary as a related synonym. Whether you prefer calling this history topic a question or an issue or one of the above D-words, at this juncture you may be wondering: What exactly is the subject matter we’re talking about? The answer is simple — the whereabouts of Avon’s town center. More fully and specifically, the actual location and accurate identification of Avon’s town center — for further details, see our cover story on page 4. The reality is this: Avon Village Center is simply an extension of Avon’s historic town center that dates back two centuries. The new complex is the proverbial hop-skip-and-jump from this historic town center, anchored by Avon Congregational Church. Yet if this isn’t the reality to all observers, it is surely a plausible and persuasive view of the reality of the true history of Avon’s town center. Some would say it’s certainly the most accurate of all the possible town6

roadways. Whole Foods, the mainstay tenant of the new shopping development, is located at 50 Climax Road. The new center’s address is 21 Ensign Drive. Go figure. For the record, the coverage area of Today Magazine is comprised of the five core towns in the Farmington Valley: Avon, Canton, Farmington, Granby and Simsbury. Farmington (founded 1645) is the oldest and Avon (1830) is the youngest. Simsbury (1670) is the next-oldest, followed by the two Simsbury spinoffs. Yes, Granby (1786) and Canton (1806) were originally encompassed within Simsbury’s boundaries. Meanwhile, Avon was previously part of Farmington. The younger municipality had been established in 1750 as a separate Farmington parish, eight decades before Avon’s official formation as a town, according to Avon town historian Nora Howard’s research. Construction of the Avon Congregational Church was finished in 1819 — in the 200 years since then, Avon’s town center has historically been at the intersection of Routes 10 and 44 and Old Farms Road, where the church building still reaches skyward today. More specifically, this is the first major intersection after Route 10/202 runs south from Simsbury into Avon and crosses Route 44. Here’s a concise verbal travelogue of this centuries-old convergence of Avon thoroughfares:

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BUSINESS BEAT HISTORY HIGHLIGHTS • Continuing straight at the intersection, Route 10/202 becomes Old Farms Road. • A right-hand turn at this crossroads, with the celebrated Avon Congregational Church on the right, takes you west on Route 44/202 aka West Main Street. • A left-hand turn takes you east on Route 44/10 (aka East Main Street) until a right-hand turn a mile down the road becomes Route 10 south — Route 44 east continues straight over Avon Mountain. By the way, two fabled Valley cornerstones — the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail and Nod Brook — traverse Avon’s historic town center and the Avon Village Center project. Thanks for traveling with Today Magazine — stay safe and happy trails. + Today editor-in-chief Bruce Deckert is an award-winning journalist ———————————————————————— CLICK HERE to read Today Magazine’s earlier story on Avon Village Center


In the 1960s, Avon’s Constitution pin oak stands sentry at the town center where the northern end of Old Farms Road meets Route 44 — the seedling was planted in 1902 (Avon Congregational Church is to the tree’s left )

TIME MACHINE SCENES • The photos above and below show Avon’s town center from the same perspective, looking north, six decades apart • The top image is from the 1960s, while the 1899 image below is a larger cropped version of this magazine’s bottom cover photo • At right is the Avon Hotel in Avon’s town center in 1912

Courtesy Photos — Avon Historical Society

The Avon Hotel in the town center in May 1912, at 5 West Main Street — the building was later demolished, and today this address is the site of O’Neill’s Chevrolet Buick

• In November 1899, an unpaved Old Farms Road runs north toward the intersection with current-day Route 44 aka West Main Street • The Avon Hotel, with two chimneys visible, is immediately to the left of freight cars on the track of the New Haven-Northampton Railroad — the railway came through Avon from 1850-1991 • The Avon Congregational Church — with its soaring steeple — is in the background beyond the hotel

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WHOLE NEW BALLGAME

Related Stories — Pages 4-7

Construction on Avon Village Center commenced in 2015, and Whole Foods Market celebrated its grand opening as the center’s anchor store in September 2021 — the Whole Foods parking lot has electric vehicle chargers

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SPOTLIGHT ON THE ARTS

Canton Guild: Fostering Artists for Six Decades Special to Today Magazine

Canton Artists’ Guild at the Gallery on the Green 5 Canton Green Road • Canton Near intersection of Dowd Avenue and Route 44 Gallery Hours Friday-Saturday-Sunday 1:00-5:00 p.m. E-mail cantonartistsguild@gmail.com Social Media Facebook > Canton’s Gallery on the Green Instagram > cantonartistsguild Mailing Address Canton Artists’ Guild Inc. P.O. Box 281 • Canton, CT 06019 www.galleryonthegreen.org ———————————————————————— Year Established — January 1960 Mission — To promote closer fellowship among artists, art students and laymen, to stimulate the development of art within the community, and to advance the cause of art in general … to foster, promote and advance the interests of art, art education and art appreciation in this and surrounding communities. continued on next page

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CELEBRATION + EDUCATION

This July is the 62nd anniversary of the Canton Artists’ Guild — its exhibition space, Gallery on the Green, was originally a schoolhouse and has become a celebrated art education center and community showcase

Slogan — All for art and art for all! Distinction — The Canton Artists’ Guild is the longest continuously running artist organization in Connecticut. With three separate galleries, the guild hosts monthlong exhibitions nine times per year. The main floor gallery is wheelchairaccessible. Most fulfilling aspect of your work? Our exhibits speak volumes about the quality and variety of artists the guild attracts. Historically, our well-attended monthly receptions have been joyful occasions averaging 150 attendees. The mission of the gallery founders has been visibly accomplished as witnessed by the networking of artists and patrons.

Biggest obstacle and how you’ve overcome it? Our biggest obstacle since March 2020 has been COVID. Before the outbreak we featured well-attended monthly openings with food, drink and fellowship. They were exciting, energetic and inclusive. That all came to a screeching halt when the pandemic hit. We hope to return fully to a sense of safety and normalcy and welcome our friends, artists and patrons back for monthly celebrations of the amazing work of our member artists. Smaller obstacles include getting a new roof for our amazing historic building. We are working on that thanks to the generosity of our members and friends.

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Most satisfying accomplishments? • Historic registry designation in 2010 • Historic video premiere in 2010 featuring 27 members and patrons who shared their memories of the birth of the guild and its journey over the years. • Maintaining a successful all-volunteer organization and well-maintained building throughout our 62 years. Goals for the next 1-5 years? • Increase our attendance and our reach to those in our community who have never visited the gallery. • Increase our sales, which benefit both our member artists and the guild itself.


• Expand our programming to include a greater variety of events beyond our opening receptions — such as readings, lectures, workshops and perhaps even small theatrical productions. Volunteers — Volunteer membership is optional. Non-volunteer membership fees are higher. Guild membership in any given year can reach as high as 100, with half opting for volunteer status and assignments. How has COVID impacted your work? The pandemic forced us to close the gallery for much of 2020. This impacted the number and type of art shows we could host, resulting in loss of opportunities

for artists to exhibit and sell work. We also stopped hosting receptions to avoid large gatherings. Although we eliminated receptions during COVID, weekend attendance and sales have steadily increased. We have implemented numerous safety measures to protect our artists, volunteers and the public. Interesting stats + numbers: Stats from the gallery’s 2020 annual meeting report — average pre-COVID attendance in previous eight years: • Receptions — 1,473 per year • Visitors — 1,095 per year Besides donations, how is your work funded?

A percentage from the sale of artwork contributes to the funding of the gallery. In addition, annual membership dues from guild artists support the gallery operation. How closely do you work with other agencies/nonprofits? We have partnered with the Canton Garden Club in presenting fine art and flower exhibits. The Canton Arts Council and the Canton Artists’ Guild are mutually supportive. We have the benefits associated with belonging to the AvonCanton Chamber of Commerce. What do you appreciate most about the Farmington Valley? The beauty that surrounds us and the abundance of artists and art lovers. +

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VALLEY INTEL

Feed the Birds What’s Best for Them Native plants optimal for pollinators By Shayaan Khan Special to Today Magazine

An 11-year-old who recently completed 6th grade, Shayaan Khan lives in Simsbury with his parents —————————————————————————————————— CHI-CHI! The cardinal sang its song as I watched the little red bird chirp away. I decided to feed the cardinal. I was not going to buy a bird feeder or bird feed but instead wanted to arrange it on my own. Making DIY stuff is my favorite pastime. So I GRANBY grabbed an old TODAY plastic tray, two sticks and a bag of peanuts. I knew that cardinals liked to eat peanuts. I propped up the tray with the sticks supporting it and scattered some peanuts underneath on the ground. The very next day the cardinal investigated the peanuts and decided to pick them one by one. It kept flying and coming back many times. That was all a lot of fun! I did not realize then that I was harming the cardinal in some way. I was ruining the cardinals’ habit to forage for food like most birds have to do. I now know through books like “National Wildlife Federation’s World of Birds” and online resources like Audubon.org that if I had planted something that gave the cardinals food but did not ruin their habit to forage, it would have been better. So this year I have grown plants that attract birds and other wildlife like squirrels and rabbits. While it may be convenient to walk into a superstore and get yourself a bird feeder, it is definitely much better for birds to grow native plants. And that is how my journey of love for native plants began! You might be wondering, “What is the problem with nonnative plants?” To answer that question, we need to understand the way the fragile ecosystem works. Native plants provide food for birds, animals and insects inhabiting the region. Small birds and insects get nectar from flowers of native plants and help them reproduce by pollination.

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Female Cardinal

ECOSYSTEM EDUCATION

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Animals like squirrels get food from plants, and bears also get food from native plants that produce berries. The same thing happens with birds. Animals like wolves and foxes eat squirrels, rabbits, mice, etc. If we replace native plants with non-native plants that animals and insects of the region do not eat, the whole ecosystem could fall apart. Non-native species crowd out native plants in areas where people do not manage the plants that grow. In the United States, we classify native plants as plants that were in the U.S. before European colonists came to America. I want to attract birds to my backyard but do not want to harm their habit to forage. Luckily, last school year my math teacher happened to be Mrs. Rebecca Rosenthal, who is an active member of the Simsbury Pollinators Club. The club aims to raise awareness about the relationship among pollinators — bees, birds, butterflies, moths, etc. — and native plant species. I learned about many native plants through a book titled “Bringing Nature Home” by Douglas Tallamy, lent

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to me by my teacher. Native plants like beautyberry, winterberry, serviceberry, bayberry and elderberry provide natural food sources and shelter. These shrubs are essential for the survival of many birds commonly found in the Farmington Valley region — such as robins, chickadees, blue jays, cardinals and many more. Besides, the birds need a place to roost. While this is something a birdhouse can easily give, a big reason we should plant these shrubs instead is because they not only help the ecosystem but also lessen our carbon footprint. They take in carbon dioxide and give off oxygen. If you want to attract birds to your yard, planting native greens is a better option than a bird feeder. While live plants are really important, there are other unexpectedly important plants, and we need to realize how beneficial they are for the ecosystem: dead plants, especially dead trees. When these dead trees decay, they provide natural compost for the next generation as well as homes and nesting areas for pollinators like birds and insects.

Male Bluebird

Did you know that over 40 species of birds and animals live in dead trees and a lot of them are pollinators?

WHAT TO PLANT?

Planting our yards with shrubs, bushes, trees and perennials native to our region is a way to give back to nature. But what to plant is the first question. While the berries mentioned above are awesome, some of my other favorites are as follows:

Alternate-leaf dogwood — Also known as a Pagoda dogwood, this plant is either a perennial small deciduous tree or a big multi-stemmed bush. It grows from 15 to 25 feet tall, a nice tree if you want some shade in your backyard. Black cherry — This plant is also a small tree and is native to the New England region. It produces cherries that are not only tasty for humans but is also an excellent food source for many birds. Milkweed — This is not the best plant to grow if you have small children or outdoor pets. Milkweed is somewhat poisonous and can be harmful if you ingest it. However, it is the only food that monarch butterflies’ larvae can eat. We need monarchs because they are very important pollinators. So if you want to help the ecosystem and invite a variety of birds, colorful butterflies and other useful insects to your backyard, grow and protect native plants. + CLICK HERE to read another Today Magazine story by Shayaan Khan: • COVID-19 in the eyes of a 9-year-old

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BUZZ-WORTHY Wasps and other flying insects are key pollinators — see page 12 for a story about how pollinators and native plants are essential components of a finely tuned ecosystem

Photo by Wendy Rosenberg

AWARDS — continued from page 2 Deckert observes. “They can be a great encouragement, like the reward of receiving an A on an assignment in school — on the other hand, awards can result in overconfidence and complacency. I hope I’m able to appreciate the upside of these awards and avoid the downside like the plague, and I hope the same for all our award-winners.” Counting these 12 awards in 2022, Today Publishing has won 24 awards in four years since debuting in October 2018. The media outlet produces Today Magazine (monthly publication) and Today Online (24/7 news site) and covers the five core towns of Connecticut’s Farmington Valley — Avon, Canton, Farmington, Granby and Simsbury. “I’m glad to provide a media platform where young writers can grow and thrive,” says Deckert. “I also appreciate the cogent contributions from many talented adult writers who help us report the underreported upside of the Valley community.” Today Magazine’s other second-place award-winners this year are Odalys Bekanich, a Farmington-based realtor and former New Britain police officer, and Samantha Lewis, a Granby native and graduate research fellow at McLean Game Refuge. Four more Today Magazine contributing writers won first-place awards — Naviah Barrow, Lisa G. Samia, Sarah 14

Today won an award for this cover layout — photo courtesy of Dana Albrycht Thompson and Terri Wilson — and this is where Today’s award haul encompasses a riddle: Today Magazine won seven firstplace awards, but Today writers collected 11 first-place awards overall. How can this be true? Here’s how: One of Today’s firstplace awards is in the Reporting Series category. The award-winning Today series is a compilation of stories by six different writers — the four in the previous paragraph plus Napier and Deckert. So while Today Magazine received

JULY 2022 – www.TodayPublishing.net – TODAY MAGAZINE

seven first-place awards, Today won 11 first-place writing prizes overall, including this team-effort Reporting Series award. Barrow is a 2020 graduate of Granby Memorial High School while Samia, Thompson and Wilson are Avon residents. Wilson, a Simsbury High graduate, is the longtime president of the Avon Historical Society. Thompson is the founder of ShopBlackCT.com and the senior director for marketing and communications at The Village for Families & Children. Samia was a National Park Arts Foundation artist-in-residence at Manassas National Battlefield Park in 2021 and at Gettysburg National Military Park in 2020 — she has written several books on Civil War themes and lectured at the Civil War Round Table Congress. Deckert has worked in the media realm for 25-plus years, including 17 years as an editor for ESPN.com and ESPN Digital Media and three years as a newspaper editor and reporter in Connecticut. “My career has come full circle — from local community-based journalism to the Worldwide Leader In Sports and back to community journalism,” Deckert observes. Founded in 1909, the Society of Professional Journalists is widely considered the nation’s preeminent journalism organization. The Connecticut SPJ Chapter was established in 1966. + CLICK HERE for a full list of award-winners and awards by category


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