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PHOTO — Members of the 8th Regiment Connecticut Volunteers, Company A fire their Springfield muskets during the finale of the West Haven centennial exhibit, “Hubbard Farms,” in Hubbard Farms Park on Saturday, Sept. 25. The regiment is a Union Civil War living history and reenacting organization that helped celebrate the legacy of the Hubbard family and farm with a Civil War encampment. The exhibit also included children’s activities, food and live music. (City Photo/Michael P. Walsh)
WEST HAVEN, Sept. 27, 2021 — Hubbard Farms Park on Saturday, Sept. 25, was transformed into a Civil War encampment and a venue for children’s activities, food and live music to celebrate the legacy of the Hubbard family and farm at the West Haven centennial exhibit, “Hubbard Farms.”
The five-hour exhibit, presented by Hubbard family member Steven Johnstone, was part of the West Haven Centennial Celebration, a six-month series of free events commemorating the community’s 1921 birth and its incorporation by the General Assembly as Connecticut’s youngest municipality, said Mayor Nancy R. Rossi, the honorary chairwoman of the City of West Haven Centennial Celebration Committee.
Local cover band The Navels kicked off the late-morning festivities, performing a two-hour-plus set of classic rock anthems on a flatbed truck provided by Bruneau’s Garage of West Haven outside the park’s main entrance on Hubbard Road. The group was followed by guitarist John Ciambriello, who played acoustic renditions of Top 40 hits.
As the music played, kids had balloons made and their faces painted by Picasso Parties, also of West Haven, courtesy of the committee.
Police closed Hubbard Road from Honeypot to Jones Hill roads, turning the West Shore neighborhood into a vibrant block party.
Visitors parked at Pagels Elementary School on Benham Hill Road and accessed the park through a gate behind the school next to the playground.
The encampment featured a display of Civil War relics collected by the 8th Regiment Connecticut Volunteers, Company A, a Union Civil War living history and reenacting organization.
Regiment members reproduced an authentic Civil War-era campsite on the summit of the wooded park — the farm’s hayfield back in the day — and answered questions and posed for photos.
During the exhibit’s finale, the regiment, flanked by Hubbard descendants and other spectators, performed a salute by loading and firing their Springfield muskets multiple times.
Johnstone, who was assisted by Councilman Barry Lee Cohen, R-10, said the successful exhibit was attended by more than 500 people, many of whom walked to the park from their homes in the 10th District neighborhood.
“It was a day filled with emotion for a lot of us ‘Hubs,’” said Johnstone, the president of the Hubbard Family Association. “For me, personally, I went for a walk in the woods a couple of times because all I could think about was my grandparents and great-grandparents. I wish they could have been here to see this.
“On a different note, however, how stinkin’ cool was that! Everyone has been asking, ‘Are you going to do an event next year?’ I don’t have an answer right now because I’ve got a lot on my plate, but I have a couple of things in mind. I just want to get on to the next phase of the park revitalization, which is bringing the pond back to get ice skating down here this winter. That’s my top priority right now for the park.”
According to Johnstone, the park property was a dairy and hay farm from the late 1700s until 1973, when his family sold the land to a local builder, who was unsuccessful in developing the property — the last remaining part of the farm that was not sold and developed. In the late ’70s, the property was sold to the city, which made it into a nature center in the mid-’90s, he said.
After exploring the manicured trails of the 7.6-acre park, people of all ages walked across the road to the tented grounds of the Hubbard family homestead, where they looked at the specially curated exhibits of farm antiques and heirlooms handed down from generations of Hubbards, as well as photos with descriptions chronicling the family farm and ice skating pond.
Johnstone’s mother, Debbie Conable Johnstone, and his cousin Sheila Hubbard Hebert served as the exhibit narrators.
Debbie Johnstone, the daughter of Allena A. Hubbard Conable, and Hebert, the daughter of Harry B. Hubbard Jr., discussed what it was like growing up on the farm, showed farming tools, and talked about their family’s history dating from the founding Hubbards in Colonial West Haven, then known as West Farms.
Along with Hubbards in the military, the exhibit also showcased reunions, including photos from the family’s 150th annual gathering in 2006, and last year’s extensive park restoration.
After a five-month cleanup led by Johnstone and Cohen, the park, formerly the Hubbard Nature and Education Center, was officially renamed Hubbard Farms Park and reopened Sept. 29, 2020.
All labor and materials to reestablish the park’s trails, clear brush and debris, add new and refurbish existing fencing, and beautify the main entrance were provided by sponsors at no cost to the city, said Johnstone, who owns Hubbard Farm’s Wood and Snow LLC of West Haven.
In addition to the sponsors’ support, more than $11,000 of in-kind and monetary contributions were made by over a dozen businesses.
Johnstone noted the restoration was also made possible by three dozen volunteers who contributed more than 350 hours to the park’s rehabilitation.
Cohen said the park revitalization is an ongoing effort, and as of Sept. 25, monetary and volunteer contributions have increased to $18,000 and 500 hours, respectively.
The Hubbard exhibit joined a long list of special events observing West Haven’s secession from Orange a century ago, including the Centennial Boat Parade in June, the Centennial Savin Rock Festival in July and the Centennial Fireworks on Sept. 3. The rural and residential sections of Orange separated in 1921 when the residential part, West Haven, became the state’s youngest town.
Johnstone and executive chef Dana Loehn, a West Haven resident who owns Creative Kitchen & Catering of Shelton, created a centennial- and farm-themed menu featuring a variety of made-to-order items, including The Hub, a jumbo hot dog heaped with pepper relish, spicy brown mustard, chili, cheese and onion crisps.
Other items prepared and sold by Loehn included District 10 — a hand-formed beef patty set over lettuce, tomato, onion and pickle and heaped with American cheese, mustard, mayonnaise, ketchup and garlic chips — and The Centennial, Creative’s slow-braised brown sugar pork heaped over smashed potato, topped with coleslaw and crowned with corn muffin.
Creative also offered a strawberry parfait called The Strawberry Patch and a chocolate parfait dubbed The Brown Cow.
The exhibit and food tents were sponsored by the Yale University West Campus.
In the spirit of West Haven’s birthday, committee Chairwoman Beth A. Sabo sold copies of the newly published centennial book, “City of West Haven: Village to Town.”
All book proceeds will offset expenses and support the $50,000 centennial budget approved by the City Council, said Sabo, the city’s commissioner of human resources.
For other 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 vendor’s merchandise proceeds will support the centennial account, Sabo said.
Watch the exhibit on West Haven YouTube.
For a complete list of centennial events, see the Schedule.
— MICHAEL P. WALSH, Public Relations Information Coordinator
Members of the 8th Regiment Connecticut Volunteers, Company A fire their Springfield muskets during the finale of the West Haven centennial exhibit, “Hubbard Farms,” in Hubbard Farms Park on Saturday, Sept. 25. The regiment is a Union Civil War living history and reenacting organization that helped celebrate the legacy of the Hubbard family and farm with a Civil War encampment. The exhibit also included children’s activities, food and live music. (City Photo/Michael P. Walsh)
Regiment members reload their muskets. (City Photo/Michael P. Walsh)
Exhibit organizer Steven Johnstone, right, with friends, from left, Republican Registrar of Voters Jo Ann Callegari, state Rep. Charles J. Ferraro, R-West Haven, and Babe Dinneen. (City Photo/Michael P. Walsh)
Local cover band The Navels perform classic rock anthems on a flatbed truck provided by Bruneau’s Garage of West Haven outside the park’s main entrance on Hubbard Road. (City Photo/Michael P. Walsh)
The “Hubbard Pond Through the Years” exhibit. (City Photo/Michael P. Walsh)
“The Family Farms” exhibit. (City Photo/Michael P. Walsh)
Farm antiques on display include barn pulleys, barn building pegs and a flail, a threshing tool used to separate grains from their husks. (City Photo/Michael P. Walsh)
A family tree of the founding Hubbards and their descendants. (City Photo/Michael P. Walsh)
The wedding dress of Frances Aurelia Smith, who married Lewis Clark Hubbard on Oct. 23, 1878. (City Photo/Michael P. Walsh)
Guitarist John Ciambriello plays acoustic renditions of Top 40 hits. (City Photo/Michael P. Walsh)
Children have balloons made and their faces painted by Picasso Parties of West Haven, courtesy of the City of West Haven Centennial Celebration Committee. (City Photo/Gary Donovan)
Employees of Creative Kitchen & Catering of Shelton prepare a variety of made-to-order items from the exhibit’s specially created centennial- and farm-themed menu. (City Photo/Michael P. Walsh)
Hubbard Farms Park. (City Photo/Michael P. Walsh)
Regiment members gather around a campfire the night before the exhibit. (City Photo/Barry Lee Cohen)
The regiment’s authentic reproduction of a Civil War-era campsite on the summit of the wooded park — the farm’s hayfield back in the day. (City Photo/Michael P. Walsh)
A regiment member rests while others tend to the campsite. (City Photo/Michael P. Walsh)
The campsite. (City Photo/Michael P. Walsh)
Regiment members load their muskets before leaving the campsite. (City Photo/Michael P. Walsh)
Officers discuss the regiment’s musket salute performance — the exhibit’s finale. (City Photo/Michael P. Walsh)