Whip, whistle and watch event launches Barnum Festival

Led by 2014 Ringmaster Paul Timpanelli and dignitaries throughout Connecticut, the Whip, Whistle and Watch luncheon May 16 at a packed Bridgeport Holiday Inn kicked off the formal celebration of the Barnum Festival, the annual salute to 19th Century showman P.T. Barnum. 

The time-honored fund-raising event reflected the 66th Barnum Festival’s battle cry Imagine, Inspire, Enjoy! The presentation of the whip, whistle and watch to Timpanelli signifies the official start to the regional celebration featuring a variety of events for children and adults.

The whip was presented by Paul Miller, Timpanelli’s college roommate, and Karen DelVecchio, executive vice president of the Bridgeport Regional Business Council; the whistle was handed over by State Senator Andres Ayala and Stratford Mayor John Harkins; and the watch once owned by P.T. Barnum was presented by Dianne Auger, Senior Vice President, Chief Corporate Affairs Officer, St. Vincent’s Health Services; Charles Firlotte, President and CEO of Aquarion Company; James Tomchik, President of Merit PLC; and Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch.

“I am truly grateful to have been given this opportunity,” said Timpanelli, chief executive officer of the Bridgeport Regional Business Council. “I am extremely proud to have had the opportunity in my life to learn and teach, learn and serve and learn and grow. We are now in the early stages of rebuilding, redefining and revitalizing this festival to create an economic driver for our region.”

Community leaders

The event also featured the presentation of the Barnum Festival/BRBC Recognition Awards to four individuals symbolic of the characteristics of leaders that impacted the region: Igor Sikorsky, helicopter inventor; Gustave Whitehead, the first in flight; Lewis Latimore, the inventor and draftsman who worked with Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Edison; and P.T. Barnum, the entrepreneur and philanthropist.

The Barnum Festival / BRBC “PT Barnum / Igor Sikorsky Award was presented to George Chatzpoulus, a Greek immigrant who owns and operates, with his family, three Chip’s Family Restaurants in the Bridgeport region.

• The PT Barnum/ Gustave Whitehead Award was presented to Pablo de Jesus Colon Hijo who launched Radio Cumbre, the first locally owned Spanish language radio station, 25 years ago.

• The PT Barnum/Lewis Latimore Award was presented to George Mintz, president of the Juneteenth of Fairfield County Organization that commemorates the abolition of slavery in the U.S.

• The PT Barnum Award was presented to 2013 Ringmaster John Stafstrom whose introduction of new events delivered renewed vibrancy to the festival.

 About P.T. Barnum

Barnum, who served as Bridgeport’s mayor, was a visionary behind Bridgeport Hospital, Aquarion Water Company and Bridgeport & Port Jefferson Steamboat Company. Barnum’s philanthropic efforts on behalf of Bridgeport included donation of the land for Seaside Park, the city’s waterfront jewel designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, architect of New York’s Central Park.

The Whip, Whistle and Watch luncheon helps to support the various festival events such as Wing Ding Parade for kids, Champions on Parade drum corps competition, Sky Blast fireworks and the Great Street Parade.

Event sponsors: Aquarion Company, The Bridgeport & Port Jefferson Steamboat Company, Chip’s Family Restaurants, City of Bridgeport, People’s United Bank, D’Addario Industries, Merit Insurance, Pullman & Comley, Santa Energy Corporation, St. Vincent’s Health Services, Trefz Corporation, UIL Holdings.

For more information, visit www.barnumfestival.com or call 203-367-8495.