Woodmont Day returns with tribute to diversity, frontline workers

MILFORD — Members of the Woodmont community are proud to say they’re from the beachside neighborhood on the east side of the city.But that will change for a day later this summer, as Woodmont Day 2021 celebrates the world.

We are the World, the 1985 fundraising song that features dozens of music stars, is the theme chosen by organizers to celebrate the diversity in the Woodmont community.

“It’s something I wanted to do because there was so much racial disparity going on in the country and our neighborhood is made up of so many nationalities,” said Kelly Cummings, a member of the Woodmont Day Committee. “I wanted to celebrate that and bring people closer together.”

This year will mark the 59th Woodmont Day, and Cummings said what makes it such a special event is that at its root it began as a simple gathering of neighbors to celebrate the community.

“It started out as a neighborhood picnic and it still is that, but it has drawn more people over the years,” said Cummings. “There are people that have moved away and plan their vacation to be part of Woodmont Day. We get a lot of people all over Milford and it’s always been something that represents the community.”

According to the Borough of Woodmont Connecticut website, the Woodmont Improvement Association was first created by a special act of Connecticut General Assembly in 1893.

Woodmont Day 2021 is scheduled for July 31. The festivities start at 8:30 a.m. with a 5K run, with registration from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. Other highlights include a beach yoga session at 9:30 a.m. and a parade at 10:15 a.m. The food, beer and merchandise tents open at 11 a.m. and a talent competition begins at 11:30. Other events include music, beach games, a scavenger hunt and more throughout the day.

“I call it an overgrown picnic,” Cummings said. “In the evening we get from 3,000 to 5,000 people show up. It’s a great place to watch a free band while looking at the water and eating hot dogs, hamburgers and fried clams.”

Beekeeper Jim Oravetz, who will be giving a presentation on his hobby, said he wants people to leave his presentation with a better understanding of the importance of bees on the environment and their daily lives.

“I’m probably going to bring some of my equipment and show people what it takes to put together a hive,’ he said. “The reason I got into beekeeping itself is that bees are under a lot of stress right now and bees are key to a lot of food sources that people take for granted.”

Oravetz said he was initially drawn to the environmental aspect of beekeeping. Now, he’s been doing it for 10 years, and hopes to draw more people into the hobby.

“We need pollinators, and that will probably be my main message,” he said. “Pollinators are good and even though I keep honeybees, there are other types of pollinators that are important for the environment.”

This will not be Oravtez’s first Woodmont Day as he has been a volunteer before but this will be his first time presenting during the event.

“I have spoken once before so this is still new to me, but I used to live in Woodmont and I used to volunteer every year, so it wasn't out of the question when they needed someone to speak,” he said. “I love Woodmont and I have been involved in that community for many years.”

Typically, Oravetz would run five hives each year, but this year, he has eight, which is an all-time high for him.

“It’s a lot of work. You have to go inspect hives every two weeks as a minimum just to make sure the queen is doing her job,” he said. “I don’t have them all in one location, I actually have them in three different locations. I like having that exposure because now they’re harvesting different crops and different things for their food source.”

Another Woodmont Day tradition, the annual parade, will have a different look this year. Normally the parade has a grand marshal. This year, organizers are hoping to have dozens.

“We actually have a lot of frontline workers that live here in the neighborhood,” said Cummings. “We are asking them to come out in unison and lead our parade as the grand marshals.”

After the year that everyone has just lived through, Cummings said it was impossible to pick a single grand marshal.

“We just felt there were so many people, and we felt it would be a great way to thank them,” said Cummings.

If COVID changed the parade this year, Cummings said there also will be a few other changes due to the virus, including a change to the traditional pie-eating contest.

There are going to be some things being done differently this year due to COVID. One of the traditional contests, the pie-eating contest, will be different this year.

“This year we are going to set up two stations so people will do their pie-eating one at a time rather than having multiple people next to each other,” said Cummings. Competitors will eat their pies, provided by Bishop’s Orchard, while timed by a volunteer.

Another thing being done differently this year is the event only goes to 8 p.m. In previous years the festivities went on until 11 p.m.

“Typically we take a break between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. to give the volunteers a break. But because we get that big crowed in the evening, and things have been so up and down with COVID and us not knowing what the restrictions would be and what we could have, we decided this year that we would go straight through, but we are ending at 8 p.m.,” said Cummings. “That way we still have time to have an evening band but we wanted to close before dusk.”