Board says 'no' to seating in beer and wine tent

Beer and wine will be once again be served at this year’s Trumbull Day, but visitors will have to imbibe while standing.

The Trumbull Day Commission’s request to add chairs to this year’s beer and wine tent were denied by the Board of Education Tuesday night. Since the event, scheduled this year for June 29, is on the grounds of Trumbull High School and Hillcrest Middle School, the commission must seek a waiver of the schools’ no-alcohol policy in order to have the tent. The Trumbull Day event returned last summer, after a few years’ hiatus, and the board gave approval for the tent. This year, board members were largely OK with bringing the tent back, but thought adding chairs was unnecessary and could mean people staying longer and drinking more.

Trumbull Day Commission Chair Elizabeth Mastroianni and commissioner Charles Letezeio came before the board for the request.

Democrat Michael Ward was against having a beer and wine tent at all.

“I’m vehemently opposed to this — alcohol doesn’t belong on school property,” Ward said. “I’m against the idea of someone sitting down having one, two, three drinks at an event that is supposed to be a fun day for families.”

Ward used to help organize Trumbull Day and said that in the 1970s alcohol at the event caused a number of problems, so it was eliminated. He understood having the tent was a way to raise money to keep the event going, but he didn’t like it.

Last year, with the approval of the tent, the Board of Education asked for strict guidelines for the tent. No children are allowed inside and alcohol may not leave the tent.

Chairman Deborah Herbst, who volunteered at the tent last year, said she saw some issues come up.

“People were very upset when we told them children weren’t allowed inside,” she said. “Some left their children outside the tent, and ultimately, I watched them.”

Mastroianni said the tent will have officers nearby and the commission is looking at solutions to some of the concerns raised by the board. Patrons may buy only a maximum of two drinks at a time and they are given bright bracelets to be easily identified. The commission had discussed allowing patrons to walk around with a drink, so they wouldn’t rush to finish it, but ultimately decided against it.

Herbst asked if the commission had looked at non-school property in town for the event.

“Because of the fireworks, it can only be done there,” Mastroianni said of the school grounds.

Board Republican Loretta Chory said she had a glass of wine in the tent last year and chairs would have been welcome, but after hearing the concerns of other board members, she felt it would be best to see how the event goes this year, and consider changes next year.

Republican Susan LaFrance said the tent was crowded last year and she hoped the organizers could limit the number of people who go in.

Commissioners said they will be getting a larger tent this year, so it can be more spread out and standing tables will be added. The board said it felt comfortable with a larger tent.

“I hear you,” Herbst said of the commissioner’s request. “But for this board it’s about the children and how it impacts them there.”

A motion to deny the Trumbull Day Commission’s request passed, with Joe Peddle opposed. Board member Rosemary Seaman was absent.