<![CDATA[NBC Connecticut - Dining, shopping and nightlife]]> Copyright 2015 http://www.nbcconnecticut.com/entertainment/the-scene http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/NBC_Connecticut.png NBC Connecticut http://www.nbcconnecticut.com en-us Fri, 29 May 2015 08:36:50 -0400 Fri, 29 May 2015 08:36:50 -0400 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA["American Idol" Winner Nick Fradiani Performs in Hartford]]> Thu, 28 May 2015 19:22:05 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/179*120/473224476.jpg

After traveling to Hollywood and winning "American Idol," Guilford native Nick Fradiani gave his first performance since his crowning moment on Wednesday night, playing at The Russian Lady in Hartford with his band, Beach Avenue.

It's undoubtedly the first of many concerts to come from the rising star, including another one in Hartford Thursday that you need to win tickets in order to attend.

He and Beach Avenue played acoustic versions of his new single, "Beautiful Life," the original song they played on "America's Got Talent" last year and a couple covers in a private Acoustic Cafe concert in Hartford, hosted by 96.5 TIC and sponsored by Miller Lite. You had to win tickets from the radio station to go, but all the fans had the chance to meet Fradiani afterward for professional photos, selfies and autographs.

"These are the ones I won't forget.This is what I was doing before I came out here. Playing at a bar back in Connecticut," he said, adding that he used to play every other Friday night at City Steam.

And he won't, as Beach Avenue drummer Ryan Zipp took a lot of photos and videos at the event to continue documenting the journey of Fradiani and the band.

Fradiani tweeted that it's his first acoustic show in his home state since winning "American Idol." He said it was very special and that it feels good to be back in his home state.

So how does it feel to be the new American Idol?

"It's funny because I always get asked that and I'm kind of like, I don't know. I don't think it's really set in yet," Fradiani said. "It's only been a few weeks, but it's a hard thing to kind of put into words. It's just been so amazing. Sometime a couple months down the road I think I'm going to be able to sit down and take it all in, but it's been amazing. It's kind of like living your dream."

It's been a good year for Fradiani and his band, which had been together for about two and a half years before they ever went on TV for a talent competition. Before "Idol," Fradiani and his Beach Avenue buddies, guitarist Nick Abraham and percussionist Zipp competed on NBC's "America's Got Talent." 

While Abraham said that it was hard for the band for a little while with Fradiani away, but they threw their full support behind him when he first talked about auditioning for "American Idol" the last year he could before the age cut-off of 28. After "Idol," they weren't sure when they'd be able to work with him again and they are happy it's been so soon as they travel a lot with him for radio spots.

"It was amazing seeing him progress through 'Idol' and to see his success," said Abraham, who also served as Fradiani's music mentor to help prep him for the final and was rewarded with a free Ford car.

He said that Fradiani has been loyal to the band and is a good friend and a natural talent. The band members, who live with Fradiani in West Haven, were featured on "Idol" when he returned home to visit his hometown of Guilford, where about 10,000 people attended a parade in his honor. Ford also sponsored a trip for Abraham and Zipp to fly to California to see Fradiani in the final round live.

"It was kind of an amazing experience being there live," Abraham said. "We got all choked up seeing him win, so it was incredible."

"American Idol" has built upon the band's success after "America's Got Talent" and given them more national exposure and concert opportunities, growing their national fan base on top of their home-state support.

While the Hollywood experienced and being on TV was different for them, when they got on stage and played, nothing changed and they felt like they were at home, Abraham said. "Idol" really helped Fradiani become more comfortable being in front of cameras, Zipp said. The musical ride has been "wild," he said.

As Fradiani works on promoting his single, they'll perform with him at radio spots and some concerts.

On Memorial Day, Fradiani sang the national anthem at the National Memorial Day services in Washington D.C.

After his appearances on two TV shows, Fradiani said he's looking forward to devoting his time to making music in the real world and focusing on his upcoming album and working with some "great co-writers."

"That's what I was born to do," he said. "That's what I love to do."

Now they will have another private performance at Spotlight Theatres in Hartford as part of the Dunkin' Donuts Music Lounge. The concert is Thursday at noon and the only way you can get into the concert, hosted by iHeart Radio and affiliated local radio stations, is by winning passes on radio stations like KISS 95.7, Country 92.5, The River 105.9 and KC 101.3.

Spotlight Theatres is located at 39 Front Street in Hartford.

How has winning "American Idol" changed his life? Well, Fradiani said Wednesday was the first day in awhile he has gotten to relax and sleep in. He is doing a lot of interviews and has some performances lined up.

"I almost cried when I found out I could sleep. I was so pumped," he quipped. "It's just been a lot of craziness. It'll be a lot of going city to city and I'm ready for it. I've been waiting to do this. I'm ready to go."

While he is the man with the talent, he said his Connecticut fans and his "insane hometown support" gave him the advantage and edge he needed to win the title of American Idol.

"Just thank you. Without all my Connecticut fans, I wouldn't have won," he said. "It feels great to be home."

Fradiani will spend all summer on his "American Idol" tour from July 7 to Aug. 28.



Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Celebrate National Burger Day]]> Thu, 28 May 2015 10:33:08 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Burger_generic+722.jpg

It’s National Burger Day, like we need an excuse to indulge on ground beef, savory toppings and a perfect bun.

In Connecticut, we’re blessed with some of the best burgers in the entire country. There are so many places to go and get your fix. Here are just some of the places notable for their burgers.

Harry's Place in Colchester, a viewer favorite, has been featured in Roadfood for its incredibly juicy burgers. They also called Harry’s cheeseburger “fast food perfection.”

Harry’s holds the distinct honor of being on the National Register of Historic places.  

Harry's Place

104 Broadway in Colchester

Louis’ Lunch in New Haven: You cannot go wrong with the birthplace of the American hamburger. They have been making burgers since 1895 and the Crown Street location should hold a spot on anyone’s culinary bucket list. (Just don’t ask for ketchup!)

Louis’ Lunch
261-263 Crown Street in New Haven
(203) 562-5507

Max Burger in West Hartford serves up everything from a classic burger, to a gourmet chicken burger or a veggie burger. Trust us, your taste buds will be very, very happy  here. The Inside Out Burger is delicious, but check out the full menu, including the specials. 

Max Burger has two locations:

124 LaSalle Road, West Hartford

860-232-3300

684 Bliss Road, Longmeadow, Massachusetts

413-798-0101

Plan B Burger Bar is one of those places that you’ll keep going back to, time and time again. They pride themselves on the fresh beef burgers, but you can get just about any kind of burger imaginable. The New Englander is made with lobster, smoked gouda, caramelized onion, lettuce, tomato and corn spread.

There are several locations in the state:

Plan B Burger Bar

120 Hebron Ave., Glastonbury
860-430-9737

1638 Boston Post Road, Milford
203-713-8700

4 Railroad St., Simsbury
860-658-4474

230 Tresser Boulevard, Stamford
203-964-8353

138 Park Road, West Hartford
860-231-1199

Prime 16 in New Haven and Orange. In the past, viewers have lauded these burgers. Build your own or pick one of the specialties. You won't find a honey truffle burger on too many menus.

Shady Glen, in Manchester, is another viewer favorite. It's not uncommon for people who've had a Shady Glen cheeseburger to say it's the best -- ever. 

Ted’s Restaurant serves up the world-famous steamed cheeseburger. The main location is in Meriden, but there is another restaurant in Cromwell. It’s worth a trip just to see how they are made. Like cheese on your burger? You’ll never get more perfectly melted cheese than this.

Ted's Restaurant
1046 Broad Street, Meriden
203-237-6660

43 Berlin Road, or Route 372, Cromwell

860-635-8337

Corner Pug, West Hartford. At the Corner Pug in West Hartford, you can indulge on a blackened Cajun burger or knife and fork Irish nacho burger, but they also have salad, steak, mac and cheese, chicken and much, mucj more.

These are just some of the best places to go for burgers. There is no way to name them all. Let us know your picks by commenting below.

Harlan Social, in Stamford, is another viewer suggestion. The Harlan Burger sounds absolutely indulgent, served with cheddar ale sauce and bacon and onion jam.

The Lockworks, 121 Towne St. in Stamford

These are just some of the best places to go for burgers, but there is no way for us to name them all here. Let us know your picks by commenting below.

 

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<![CDATA[Merriam-Webster Adds 1,700 Words, Including "Jeggings," "NSFW"]]> Thu, 28 May 2015 06:46:25 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/214*120/27167011.jpg

The Merriam-Webster unabridged dictionary has included new words that will have some people saying “WTF.”

The company announced Tuesday it has added 1,700 new terms, many of which are influenced by the internet and social media.

Such entries include meme, NSFW, emoji, clickbait, and photobomb.

Others refer to popular culture, such as jeggings, photobomb, twerk and vocal fry.

For a word to be included, it has to be “used in a substantial number of citations that come from a wide range of publications over a considerable period of time,” according to Merriam-Webster. “Specifically, the word must have enough citations to allow accurate judgments about its establishment, currency, and meaning.”

Here are some other new entries:

Net Neutrality (Noun)

Definition: the idea, principle or requirement that Internet service providers should or must treat all Internet data as the same regardless of its kind, source or destination.

Clickbait (Noun)

Definition: something (such as a headline) designed to make readers want to click on a hyperlink, especially when the link leads to content of dubious value or interest.

Sriracha (Noun)

Definition: a pungent sauce that is made from hot peppers pureed with usually garlic, sugar, salt, and vinegar and that is typically used as a condiment.

Slendro (Noun)

Definition: a pentatonic tuning employed for Javanese gamelans that divides the octave into five roughly similar internals.

Dark Money (Noun)

Definition: money contributed to nonprofit organizations that is used to fund political campaigns without disclosure of the donors' identities.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Connecticut Beaches Expected to Be Packed Memorial Day Weekend]]> Sun, 24 May 2015 12:08:33 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Hammonasset+Sunrise+1200.jpg

It's expected to be a busy day at Connecticut's beaches as temperatures are on the climb Memorial Day weekend and the state's campgrounds are full too.

Hammonasset Beach State Park in Madison was calm and quiet in the morning, with waters  cool at 51 degrees. But, with the campground full, the park is expected to be packed.

If you are planning to head there for the day, remember to plan for the holiday and weekend parking fees that start this weekend.

There is some construction going on, including new bathrooms and a 4,000-square-foot nature center, but park officials said it shouldn't impact your plans.

If you want to check out the activities going on at the different state parks or reserve a campsite for later this summer, you can download the state's official pocket ranger app and you'll have everything you need to know before you pitch your tent.
 



Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[CT Woman Is 5th Globally to Finish "Chipper" CrossFit Challenge]]> Sat, 23 May 2015 17:07:59 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Kaleena+Ladeairous+1200.jpg

The CrossFit Regionals are underway as athletes from across the globe compete for the title of "Fittest on Earth" and one of the Connecticut participants is just became the fifth woman in the world to finish one of the challenges to put her on top of the female leaderboard for the regional event.

The XL Center was roaring when CrossFit Milford's Kaleena Ladeairous became the fifth woman globally to complete the third event at this weekend's competition, the "chipper." The grueling workout includes a one-mile run, followed by 50 overhead squats at 95 pounds, 100 GHD sit-ups, 150 double unders, 50 sumo deadlift high pulls at 95 pounds and 100 18-inch box jump-overs.

The workout has a time cap of 26 minutes. Most do not finish and are then scored based on how many reps they can do. Ladeairous finished in 25:32.

Danae Brown, of Melbourne, Australia holds the world record at 24:31:09, which she set in the Pacific regionals.



Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[George Takei Coming to ConnectiCon]]> Tue, 19 May 2015 11:14:01 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/160*120/takei_640x480.jpg

George Takei is coming back to Connecticut and will be one of the featured speakers at ConnectiCon this summer.

Takei, who best known for his role as Mr. Sulu in Star Trek, should be a big draw for the already-popular convention, which features a wide array of pop culture -- board games, cosplay, sci-fi, comics and more, and brings in people from all over the country.

ConnectiCon’s roots began to grow at the University of Hartford. In 2002, a group of friends involved in the Science Fiction and Fantasy Guild decided to start their own convention after taking several trips across the country to attend them.

It’s not yet clear when Takei will be speaking, but he is one of several featured guests.

Others guests include Sarah Lancaster, who played Ellie Bartowski in “Chuck,” Raven Moreau, in “Witches of the East End,” Rachel Meyers, in “Saved by the Bell: The New Class,” Madison Kellner in “Everwood.”

Several actor and actresses from the “Power Rangers” TV shows and films, including David Yost, Karan Ashley, Paul Schrier and Jason Narvy, will also be featured at the convention.

It event, held at the Connecticut Convention Center, as well as the Hartford Marriott Downtown Hartford Hilton, runs from July 9 through 12.
 


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<![CDATA[Nik Wallenda Makes 80-Foot-High Tightrope Walk at Foxwoods]]> Fri, 22 May 2015 18:02:29 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/nikwallendaorlandoeye.jpg

A month after walking the 400-foot Orlando Eye untethered, renowned daredevil acrobat and Guinness Book of World Records holder Nik Wallenda completed another dangerous feat in Connecticut.

Wallenda, of the Flying Wallenders, traversed a 711-foot long tightrope, 75 to 80 feet in the air, in 13- to 14-mile per hour winds on Friday afternoon, as a crowd watched from below.

The tightrope was suspended between the fifth floor of the Rainmaker garage and the roof of Tanger Outlets mall, and Wallender stopped in the middle to do a ribbon cutting for the new mall.

Later during the tightrope walk, Wallenda even got down onto the rope and laid down.

“We like to leave our guests breathless with anticipation when visiting the Northeast’s largest resort casino destination, and nobody in the world leaves them quite as mesmerized as Nik Wallenda,” Felix Rappaport, president and CEO of Foxwoods Resort Casino. “He’s an amazing performer who has been leaving audiences astonished for decades. We’re thrilled to have him here during the grand opening weekend celebration for our new Tanger Outlets at Foxwoods. It will be thrilling as he walks high above the buildings of the 8.6 million square-feet of Foxwoods, North America’s largest resort.”

The stunt also benefits the United Way of Southeastern Connecticut, with Foxwoods vowing to donate $7.11-worth of clothing from the Tanger Outlets to the organization for every foot Wallenda walked.

Wallenda is a seventh-generation Flying Wallenda's Family member, has multiple Guinness World Records and was the first person to walk over the Grand Canyon and Niagara Falls, according to a news release about the grand opening.

He set a Guinness World Record in 2010 for the longest and highest bike ride on a high wire in New Jersey and another one in 2011 for his "Wheel of Death" performance on on top of the Tropicana Casino and Resort, which is 23 stories high, according to the news release. He recently set two more Guinness world records doing a two-part tightrope walk in Chicago between two skyscrapers. 

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<![CDATA[Connecticut Native Competes for Top Spot on "The Voice"]]> Tue, 19 May 2015 21:03:04 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Sawyer-Fredericks-The-Voice-4-May.jpg

Tuesday night on NBC's "The Voice" will be the telling moment for Connecticut native Sawyer Fredericks, 16, who will find out on tonight's season finale whether he won the singing competition.

On Monday's episode, Fredericks sang an original single, "Please," written for him by Ray LaMontagne and teamed up with coach Pharrell to perform "Summer Breeze" by Seals and Crofts.

Fredericks, an acoustic singer-songwriter, was born at Danbury Hospital and lived in Sandy Hook as a toddler before moving with his family to Roxbury, according to his grandparents in Connecticut. He now lives in upstate New York.

Fredericks first learned to play guitar in 2010 and has written more than three dozen songs since then, according to his website. He released his first full-length album in June of 2013 after recording a demo CD with six original songs the year before.

He's one of four contestants left in the competition and will go up against Koryn Hawthorne, who is also on Pharrell's team, Meghan Linsey with Team Blake Shelton and Joshua Davis on Team Adam Levine.

"They're all wonderful singers. It just feels, though, that Sawyer sings really from the heart. You can feel the tenderness, or the sorrow, or whatever it is he's expressing," said Fredericks' grandfather, Jan Larsen.

Larsen will be cheering him on from Monroe.

"I knew he was talented, but my daughter also put his stuff on YouTube and that was very fortunate, in a way, because 'The Voice' discovered him, asked him if he wanted to audition for 'The Voice,'" Larsen explained.

Residents of the area remember when Fredericks, who now lives in New York, took the microphone in Seymour for his CD release party in 2013. They hope tonight he'll make history.

"We've just continued to support Sawyer. This has kind of become the unofficial Seymour headquarters for Sawyer Fredericks fans," said Kimberly Dulka, who owns the All-American Valley General Store on Bank Street in Seymour.

Locals said Sawyer has been an inspiration to local musicians young and old, and his grandfather hopes he'll stay that way.

"The hope is he'll keep his personality and not stray from his humble beginnings," said Larsen.

Tune into the Season 8 finale of "The Voice" on NBC Connecticut tonight at 8 p.m. to find out if Fredericks' Monday performances were enough to win him the crown.



Photo Credit: NBC Universal
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<![CDATA[New Carl’s Jr., Hardee’s Burger Includes Hot Dog, Chips]]> Fri, 15 May 2015 10:25:10 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Carl%27s-Jr.jpg

Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s are cramming a summer cookout into one burger.

The upcoming menu item is made with a beef patty that is topped with a split hot dog. The meaty duo sits on a layer of Lay’s potato chips between hamburger buns. Ketchup, mustard, tomato, red onion, pickles and American cheese will be thrown in, too. The burger will have 1,030 calories and 64 grams of fat.

“The hot dog is like a smoked meat product, so it’s not unlike bacon,” said Brad Haley, chief marketing officer of CKE Restaurants, the owner of Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s.

Fast food chains have been trying to outdo each other with outrageous menu items to stand out. Wendy’s, for example, offered a cheeseburger topped with pulled pork last year.

Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s are calling their new burger the "Most American Thickburger." It goes on sale at both locations on May 20.

“We’ve had this idea, believe it or not, for a long time,” Haley said.

The Most American Thickburger will use kettle-cooked Lay’s chips, which are thicker than regular chips, to prevent them from getting soggy.

The burger will cost $5.79 alone or $8.29 for a combo, which comes with fries and a drink.

CKE Restaurants has experimented with meat-on-meat burgers before. It previously sold a burger topped with pastrami at Carl’s Jr., and sold a burger smothered with thinly sliced steak, called the Philly Cheesesteak Thickburger, at Hardee’s.

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<![CDATA[McDonald's to Expand All-Day Breakfast Test]]> Wed, 13 May 2015 19:54:56 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/MCDonalds-Breakfast-SanDiego.jpg

McDonald’s will reportedly expand its test of an all-day breakfast menu.

The breakfast test will expand to Nashville this summer, the company announced during a webcast with franchisees, the Wall Street Journal reports. They also revealed plans to shorten drive-through menus and release new, mid-priced menu options.

McDonald’s had been testing the all-day breakfast option at select restaurants in its San Diego market, the company confirmed to NBCChicago in March

"We know our customers love McDonald’s breakfast and they tell us they’d like to enjoy it beyond the morning hours," the company said in an earlier statement. "We look forward to learning from this test, and it’s premature to speculate on any outcomes. We’re excited to serve our customers in this area some of McDonald’s great-tasting breakfast sandwiches, hash browns and other favorites all day long."

McDonald’s breakfast currently ends at 10:30 a.m. in most markets.

The reported move comes as CEO Steve Easterbrook revealed plans to turnaround the fast food chain’s struggling business. It also comes as the company works to maintain its slot at the top of the fast food breakfast chain.

McDonald's has long been the fast-food leader in the mornings, with its popular Sausage Biscuits, Hotcakes and other items pulling in roughly 20 percent of the company's U.S. sales. But the chain has faced stiffer competition in recent years, with competitors such as Starbucks and Subway rolling out breakfast sandwiches as well.

McDonald's, which has more than 14,000 U.S. locations, has also said it plans to step up its marketing of breakfast as it faces intensifying competition.

As for extending its breakfast hours, the world's largest hamburger chain is known for treading extremely carefully when discussing any tests or potential changes. Such matters are considered sensitive in large part because they would require the support of the company's network of franchisees.

McDonald's did not immediately return NBCChicago's request for comment. 
 

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<![CDATA[Bret Michaels, Dennis DeYoung to Headline Travelers Concerts]]> Tue, 12 May 2015 14:33:48 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Bret+Michaels+Dennis+DeYoung+1200.jpg

Multi-platinum former Poison front man Bret Michaels and STYX founding member and lead singer Dennis DeYoung will headline the Powerstation Events Concert Series at the Travelers Championship in Cromwell in June.

"The Powerstation Events Concert Series is an annual highlight of our tournament, bringing top musicians to Connecticut for our fans to enjoy as part of their admission," Travelers Championship Tournament Director Nathan Grube said in a statement. "Our goal is to make the Travelers Championship an experience that the whole family can enjoy, and we are excited to have Bret Michaels and Dennis DeYoung perform this year."

DeYoung will take to the stage on Friday, June 26, playing rock songs made famous by STYX like "Lady," "Babe," "Come Sail Away," "Mr. Roboto," "Renegade" and many others from the '70s, '80s and '90s, according to the news release. Michael performs Saturday, June 27 on Overstock.com's True Grit Tour, sponsored by PetSmart, playing the metal songs of Poison.

Poison has sold more than 45 million records across the globe, with 10 of its singles landing in the top 40 on the Billboard charts, known for songs like "Nothin' but a Good Time," Fallen Angel," "Your Mamma Don't Dance" and "Something to Believe In," according to the release.

DeYoung was lead singer and songwriter in eight of STYX's top 10 hits, according to the news release. Four STYX albums in a row were named multi-platinum between 1977 and 1981 and about 2 million copies of each one were sold, the news release said.

The concerts start after the golfing is over for the day at about 7 p.m. at the MetroHartford Alliance Fan Zone in the middle of the course, according to the release.

Fans can purchase "Any One Day" tickets to attend the tournament and entertainment. Powerstation Events is the Connecticut entertainment and production company running the concert series.

"We're thrilled to present the Powerstation Events Concert Series at the Travelers Championship for the fourth consecutive year," Al Vagnini, president of Powerstation Events, said. "Working with the Travelers Championship offers us an opportunity to support dozens of charities impacted by the tournament, as well as bring Connecticut fans top national acts. We're proud of how this partnership has grown."

More information is available at travelerschampionship.com/2015-schedule-of-events.



Photo Credit: Submitted by Travelers Championship]]>
<![CDATA[50 Cent Heads to Hamden for Vodka Bottle Signing ]]> Fri, 08 May 2015 09:44:01 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/50-cent1.jpg

50 Cent made a name for himself as a singer and rapper, but he’s also an entrepreneur and the face of EFFEN Vodka.

Yes, that's the name, and 50 Cent, or Curtis Jackson, will be making an appearance is Hamden next week to promote it.

He invests in the product, according to Syracuse.com, and crowds have been buying when he travels to do bottle signings.

According to comments on the EFFEN Vodka Facebook page, Jackson has also taken time to take photos with everyone who makes the trip to see him.

The rapper, who has a sprawling estate in Farmington, will be at Wine Merchants, at 2300 Dixwell Ave., in Hamden, on Thursday, May 14, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. for a bottle signing.

There are several varieties of EFFEN Vodka, including original, black cherry, cucumber, Dutch raspberry and salted caramel.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Film Released About CT Man Who Played Big Bird ]]> Wed, 06 May 2015 12:09:56 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/162*120/92919835_10.jpg

A documentary about the Woodstock, Connecticut puppeteer behind the characters of Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch on "Sesame Street" became available on iTunes and OnDemand on Cinco de Mayo and was released in New York theaters on Wednesday, Tribecca Film and production company Copper Pot Pictures announced.

Caroll Spinney, 81, has brought the characters of Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch to life since the show launched 45 years ago. The documentary, "I Am Big Bird" tells his story and highlights his career and characters.

The Today Show aired an interview with Spinney on Wednesday, a day after the movie's digital release date, addressing his 46-year career and the story of how he almost went on the Challenger spaceshuttle that exploded.

"'I Am Big Bird' captures how the love radiating from Caroll has created a worldwide cultural icon and answers why he can't say goodbye to the characters he cherishes," Copper Pot Pictures said in a news release.

He "handpicked a successor," Matt Vogel, "who has waited, quite literally, in the wings, as his understudy for almost 20 years," but Spinney has held on with no intention of retiring," according to the news release.

"Yielding the Bird would mean saying goodbye to characters that are a true expression of his
soul, characters that he loves and cherishes like his own children," Copper Pot Pictures said.

The production company describes Spinney as a man who has "pure love" filling his life, from his relationship with his mother, who "handcrafted his first puppets" and "sacrificed her own body to protect Caroll from a savage beating from his father" to finding his true love, Debra after his first wife divorced him because she was "embarrassed" by his puppetry career.

He was also very close friends with his boss, Jim Henson. A YouTube video shows him singing Kermit the Frog's "Bein' Green" as Big Bird at Henson's memorial.

"The unconditional love that envelops Caroll’s life—and which is captured in the hours of home video culled for I AM BIG BIRD — is the true secret to Big Bird’s popularity," Copper Pot Pictures said.

Spinney was also originally supposed to be on the Challenger space shuttle in 1986, but NASA ultimately decided not to go forward with that plan, according to the production company.

"Instead of boarding the shuttle, he watched from the studio as the astronauts, including his
replacement, Christa McAuliffe, perished in the disaster," Copper Pot Pictures said.

Big Bird's popularity has faded as new writers explored other characters like Elmo, but Spinney's legacy as the yellow bird is historical in American pop culture, according to the production company.

"He’s dined with heads of state, won Emmys and been named a living legend by the Library of Congress," Copper Pot Pictures said.

The documentary explores Spinney's creative process and what inspired him. It shows Spinney today and videos from his personal library "to illustrate how he became the man that became the Bird," according to the production company. The film also includes footage of Jim Henson with Kermit the Frog and interviews with Jane Henson, Vogel, Frank Oz (Cookie Monster, Bert) and Jerry Nelson (The Count).

And, as the yellow feathers give way to grey hair, it is the man, not the Muppet, who will teach us the greatest lesson of all: how to love unconditionally," Copper Pot Pictures said.

Other nationwide will start showing the documentary May 15, according to Tribecca Film.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Mother's Day DIY Gift Ideas]]> Tue, 05 May 2015 16:29:32 -0400 A Pumpkin and a Princess has an easy-to-follow guide on how to make Lavender Chamomile Tea Soaps.]]> A Pumpkin and a Princess has an easy-to-follow guide on how to make Lavender Chamomile Tea Soaps.]]> http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/DIY-Lavender-Chamomile-Tea-Soap1.jpg Your mom will appreciate these creative, easy-to-make gifts.

Photo Credit: A Pumpkin and a Princess]]>
<![CDATA[Fast-Food Cinco de Mayo: Free Biscuit Tacos, DIY Guac]]> Tue, 05 May 2015 07:45:44 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/biscuit-taco-bell.jpg

Free breakfast tacos and a coveted guacamole recipe could bode for a festive Cinco de Mayo.

Taco Bell is giving away free biscuit tacos from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. Tuesday in honor of the holiday celebrating Mexican cultural pride.

They'll give one sausage or bacon biscuit taco to each person between those hours, as the fast-food chain tries to boost its new breakfast menu.

But if it's something closer to authentic Mexican you're craving, and if you want to get DIY about making it, Chipotle has you covered.

The chain has shared its recipe for its beloved guacamole, adapted for normal home cooks. What you'll need: avocados, a lime, some cilantro, a red onion, a jalapeno and some salt — that's it.

]]>
<![CDATA[Cinco de Mayo: 10 Authentic Mexican Spots Across U.S.]]> Mon, 04 May 2015 19:06:22 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/472092370_Dancers.jpg

If you live in a major city, chances are you can find a little taste of Mexico for Cinco de Mayo this year, whether you're looking for tampiqueña, mariachi music, or cultural murals. Here are a few of the most authentic Mexican corners across the country.

1. Chicago’s Pilsen Neighborhood: Known for its Mexican cultural murals, musical history and religious imagery, the Pilsen neighborhood is located in the southwest corner of Chicago. If you are looking for a place to spend time wit the family over some amazing Mexican food, this is the place.

2. New York’s Spanish Harlem: There’s a thriving Puerto Rican community inside Manhattan’s 103rd street to the south and Lexington Avenue to the west, where you’ll find street art, small eateries, ethnic stores and holistic shops. In the last few years, a strong Mexican presence has been taking hold in the neighborhood as well.

3. Dallas-Fort Worth's El Ranchito Restaurant: One of the most emblematic Mexican restaurants in the DFW area is El Ranchito. If you want to enjoy a mouthwatering Tampico club style steak (known as a tampiqueña), green enchiladas, or a variety of Mexican style grilled meats (parillada), you’ll want to go here. You can also enjoy some handmade tortillas. Don’t be surprised to see mariachis playing here.

4. San Antonio’s Alamo Street: Alamo Street, which runs between Hemisfair Plaza to the convention center, is one of San Antonio’s most touristy spots in the center of the city. Here, you’ll find authentic Mexican stores, restaurants and bars.

5. San Antonio’s Market Square: This market is in a commercial area that represents Mexican culture. From Alameda Museum to the Pico de Gallo restaurant, Market Square offers a little piece of Mexico.

6. Talavera Restaurant: Talavera Restaurant is one of the most representative restaurants of Mexican cuisine in the Miami area, decorated with large vases made in the traditional Puebla ceramic style that were popular during colonial times. Here, you can find traditional and modern interpretations of Mexican food, plus dishes from different regions of Mexico.

7. Houston Casa Ramírez: At this Mexican artisanal store in Houston, you’ll find regional folklore pieces, from Mexican-style skulls to religious candles. Every season is on display here, including elaborate altars for the Day of the Dead and piñatas for Christmas.

8. Old Town San Diego: Old Town is an area that seems to have been stuck in time when San Diego was still a part of Mexico. You’ll find details from a different period, with dirt roads and people dressed in the style of that era. The historic park and the surrounding areas are very popular with tourists because of its Mexican restaurants.

9. Plaza del Mariachi: Located in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of East LA is Plaza del Mariachi, the equivalent of Plaza Garibaldi in Mexico City. Since the 1930s, mariachis would congregate on this corner to offer their services to whoever needed them, a well-known tradition in Plaza Garibaldi. Today, you’ll only find mariachis on weekend.

10. Placita Olvera: Situated right in the heart of LA and known as the birthplace of the city is La Placita Olvera, which was made in the style of the plazuelas of Sonora. Within Olvera Street there are 27 historic buildings. In 1930s the street was closed and converted into an outdoor market. Today, the plaza is used by the city and the Hispanic community for celebrations, musical events and dancing, including Cinco de Mayo celebrations.

Where will you celebrate Cinco de Mayo?



Photo Credit: Denver Post via Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Free Cone Day at Carvel]]> Thu, 30 Apr 2015 12:33:49 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Carvel+free+cone+day+1200.jpg

Spring is here and you can get ice cream for free today. What’s better than that?

Today is “Free Cone Day” at Carvel. Between 3 p.m. and 8 p.m., you can get a free junior soft serve cup or cone at participating Carvel locations.

If you live in Connecticut, you probably do not have to go far to get to a shop because there are 21 across the state:

Here’s the full list, or go to the online map.

  • 401 West Main Street in Avon: 860-409-0582
  • Carvel Express, I-95 Southbound at Mile Marker 54 in Branford: 516-458-8020
  • 1668 Park Ave. Bridgeport: 203-333-7200
  • 1 Padanaram Road in Danbury: 203-792-3428
  • Carvel Express, 1 Connecticut West in Darien: 203-309-5455
  • 2864-A Main St. in Glastonbury: 860-633-2881
  • Carvel Express, I-95 Southbound at Exit 39 in Milford
  • 1081 Bridgeport Ave., Milford: 203-874-1427
  • 778 New Haven Road, Naugatuck: 203-723-7770
  • 1018 Main St., Newington: 860-667-1467
  • 14 Danbury Road, New Milford: 860-354-3554
  • 324 Connecticut Ave. in Norwalk: 203-831-0300
  • 456 Main St. in Norwalk: 203-846-3002
  • 113 Danbury Road in Ridgefield: 203-438-7424
  • 1980 West Main St. in Stamford: 203-569-7910
  • 1575 Barnum Ave. in Stratford: 203-380-0033
  • 650 S Main St. in Torrington: 860-489-8405
  • 243 Hartford Turnpike in Vernon: 860-75-2278
  • 700 Watertown Ave. in Waterbury: 203-754-5518
  • 1300 Main St. in Watertown: 860-274-1462
  • 1025 Post Road East in Westport: 203-227-6070
     



Photo Credit: Carvel.com]]>
<![CDATA[What's Behind the Kentucky Derby's Trademark Hats?]]> Thu, 30 Apr 2015 08:48:35 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/kd488034839.jpg

The Kentucky Derby may be the greatest two minutes in sports, but at Churchill Downs on Saturday, the competition parading in the stands could give the thoroughbreds a run for their money.

From towering hat designs festooned with ribbons to delicate fascinators, the modern taste for the Derby's trademark accessory has spawned contests at parties, and given business a boost for milliners.

Although the annual battle for the Derby's most eye-catching hat has taken on a life of its own in recent decades, the tradition of wearing one to the race traces back to day one, says Kentucky Derby Museum curator Chris Goodlett.

When Meriweather Lewis Clark Jr., the grandson of legendary explorer William Clark of the Lewis and Clark expedition, founded the Kentucky Derby, he wanted to bring elegance and class to American horse racing, inspired by the grand races of London and Paris.

Defying social norms that excluded women from places men were gambling, he marketed his race to the fashionable upper crust. That meant women appeared front and center at the races, dressed in stylish clothes, shoes and — the centerpiece of the wardrobe — a dashing hat.

"The presence of ladies in the grandstand added great splendor to the racing scene," Goodlett said. "News articles in 1875 make reference to the dress of the ladies, with specific mention of hats."

Eventually, in the 1960s, women began wearing larger and more extravagant hats, the better to be seen in the stands on television. What began as an elite custom morphed into a grand show of symbolic reverence, as the Derby played host to some of the most diverse displays of head wear worldwide.

Today, the annual Run for the Roses can be the backbone of many milliners', or women's hatmakers, shops every year, with business booming in the April run-up to the big event. 

"When I first opened the boutique, I made one or two hats for the Derby," said milliner Linda Pagan, who owns The Hat Shop in New York and has been creating one-of-a-kind Derby hats for close to 20 years. "Now, it is the biggest month of our year."

The process of custom-making a hat is labor-intensive, and a Derby hat can take weeks to create. Many of Pagan’s clients start shopping for the perfect Derby hat as early as January, especially those who plan on wearing a grandiose wide-brim headpiece.

Celebrating the Derby in style doesn't have to mean an enormous hat, though. There's also the fascinator, a sort of cross between a miniature hat and a hair accessory, embellished with feathers, flowers, beads or lace and perched on the side of a woman's head, in a style that Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, has made unmistakable.

Philip Treacy, the famed Irish milliner who designed 36 hats for the royal wedding (including the infamous "Teletubby" one) and almost single-handedly revived the fascinator, has pronounced the style dead, to his delight, but it still has its fans at races stateside. The Louisville Courier-Journal's fashion editor Christine Fellingham estimates that a third of Derby-goers now wear fascinators.

They're stylish, sure, but Pagan points out that they're also easy to wear, and transport.

"Once upon a time, airlines use to have special sections on-board for storing hat boxes," Pagan notes. Now, due to ever-tougher luggage restrictions, "wild horse" shoppers who wait until the last stretch to score a hat may have to settle for a humble cocktail hat or fascinator.

That modern-day practical consideration could keep fascinators a popular choice for the Derby's hat-donning ladies, just as wide-brimmed hats once were for Derby-goers hoping not to burn their fair skin in the blazing sun of the grandstands.

Whatever hat a Derby fan chooses — whether it's off the rack or custom-made, awe-inspiringly elegant or gruesomely garish — Pagan says there's a key to finding the perfect one: "Confidence."



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Don't Skimp on Mint: How to Throw a Derby Party ]]> Wed, 29 Apr 2015 12:51:18 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/181162826_MintJulep.jpg

Can't make it to Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Derby this year? You can still join in the fun by throwing your own Derby party, with the help of hats, bourbon and a lot of mint.

Here are some tips — courtesy of a veteran hostess and a professional party planner — on tapping into the Derby's Southern tradition to thrill guests at your own Derby bash.

Mint juleps are just the beginning.

Southern-inspired fare can help give your soiree an authentic Kentucky Derby feel. Louisiana crawfish and beet salad, sweet potato hash and bourbon-glazed short ribs are just a few of the recipes shared on the Derby's official website.

And of course, mint juleps are a must-serve drink. Marion Rogers, 96, who hosted Kentucky Derby parties for 30 years in her St. James, New York, home, served each of her parties' roughly two dozen guests mint julep in one of the official Kentucky Derby glasses she had collected over the years.

Party planners Seri Kertzner and Michelle Bachman, who together style parties in New York and the Hamptons with Little Miss Party Planner, suggest doubling down on the mint theme by serving crudites out of mint julep cups.

Dress up your home, and your head.

The mint need not end with the juleps. You might as well use them as your decor, too, to save on costs, suggests Kertzner.

“Instead of buying flowers, decorate your home with mint. It will look pretty and smell pretty,” she said.

But maybe the most important decor for any Derby party takes place on everybody's heads, with the Derby's trademark whimsical hats.

That could make an outdoor party especially welcome, at least while you're not gathered inside to watch the race itself on TV. If you go that route, try bringing a portable radio outside so people can listen to the race, in a throwback to Derby races of yore.

“Ladies can put their hats to good use while enjoying the sun and warm air,” Kerzner said.

Get competitive, and loud.

You can bring some of the competition set to happen on the track in Louisville into your own home with Derby-inspired party games. Give your guests a reason to watch the race with your own betting pool — no knowledge of horse racing required!

Ask each guest to bring a small entry fee and to draw a slip of paper with a horse and its odds of winning. Whoever has the the horse that takes the prize gets to take home all the money in the bag. At Marion's parties, where guests would bring $2 each, the winnings would be about $40.

If your guests prefer style over the sport, tell them to come dressed to impress, and host a "best hat" contest. The tradition of wearing fashion-forward hats to the Derby is thought to bring good luck, according to race organizers.

Flowers, feathers and bows are staples of the often oversize headpieces, which can range from classy to wild. Kerzner suggests picking up figurine horses from a craft store and spray-painting them gold, then using them as trophies in categories like best or biggest hat.

And whether your guests are cheering for horses or for hats, be prepared for them to make some noise. It's tradition that everyone stands to sing "My Old Kentucky Home" as the horses make their way to the track. Once the race begins, expect spirited cheering to break out.

"People would hollar and scream during the race," Marion Rogers' daughter, also named Marion, recalled of her mother's decades of parties, "but at least one person could hear who won."



Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto]]>
<![CDATA[Did Jimmy Fallon Steal Fran Lebowitz's Apartment?]]> Tue, 28 Apr 2015 08:59:30 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Fallon+Fran+Lebowitz.JPG Fran Lebowitz confronts Jimmy Fallon about him making an offer on an apartment she really wanted and stealing her name for his baby.

Photo Credit: Douglas Gorenstein/NBC]]>
<![CDATA[How to Make a Mint Julep, Official Drink of the Kentucky Derby]]> Fri, 01 May 2015 12:08:07 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/how-to-make-mint-julep-final.jpg

Each year, over the course of one spring weekend in May, nearly 120,000 mint juleps are sipped, slurped and supped at the Churchill Downs Racetrack in Kentucky. It’s been that way for nearly a century, since the julep became the event's official drink, thanks to the influence of Colonel Matt J. Winn, according to the Churchill Downs website

Winn, who grew up watching the derby from a seat in his father’s grocery wagon, became the track’s vice president in 1902. When he took that role, Churchill Downs had been facing some financial troubles. Winn is credited with coming up with a number of now-famous derby traditions, including the garlands of flowers worn around winners’ necks, playing the song "My Old Kentucky Home," and the mint julep glasses, which Winn designed.

Watch the video above to learn how to make the drink at home.

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<![CDATA[National Zoo Wants You to See This Panda Inseminated]]> Mon, 27 Apr 2015 14:28:35 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/national-zoo-460948863.jpg

It's time for another round of "Is she or isn't she?"

The National Zoo's female giant panda, Mei Xiang, has been artificially inseminated twice in the past two days, in hopes of bringing another beyond-adorable cub into the world.

And the pandas, or perhaps their zookeepers, really, really want us to know about it.

Since if it didn't happen on social media, it didn't really happen, the zoo livestreamed portions of the first insemination procedure on Twitter and live-posted to Instagram using the hashtag #pandastory. (At least one other attempt in recent years was live-tweeted.)

A little background: Mei Xiang's cub Bao Bao will celebrate her second birthday this year. Scientists skipped out on conception attempts last year as Mei Xiang was still attentively mothering her wee one.

Now, though, it's time to try again. Mei was inseminated Sunday evening and again around 7:30 a.m. Monday after daily hormone reports showed that her progesterone levels peaked Sunday morning, the National Zoo said. An earlier Instagram video also showed Mei Xiang bleating at male giant panda Tian Tian through a fence, another sign that she was almost ready. (Our advice to you: If you watch the video on headphones, make sure your volume is NOT turned all the way up.)

Mei Xiang was put under general anesthesia for the insemination procedures, which took about an hour.

Scientists used semen from two giant pandas: Tian Tian, the National Zoo's resident male panda, who is the father of Mei Xiang's previous cubs, and also from Hui Hui, a giant panda living at the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda in Wolong, China.

The zoo said Hui Hui was determined to be one of the best genetic matches for Mei Xiang.

If a new cub is born, scientists will use a DNA test to determine which male panda is the father.

Scientists also used semen from two different pandas back when Mei Xiang became pregnant with Bao Bao and her stillborn twin in 2013. After their delivery, tests determined that Tian Tian was the father of both cubs.

Mei Xiang also gave birth to a female cub in 2012, but the cub died after a week.

Mei's only other surviving cub, Tai Shan, was born at the National Zoo in 2005. But they grow up so fast these days, and he was sent to live in China in early 2010.

Panda pregnancies, on average, take three to six months, and pandas really know how to keep the suspense going -- there's often no way to tell a little one is on the way until they're born.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Quassy Amusement Park Opens for 107th Season]]> Sat, 25 Apr 2015 17:18:53 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/frantic+opening+1200.jpg

Thrill seekers and ride and game lovers celebrated the opening of the amusement park portion of Quassy Amusement & Waterpark for the season Saturday.

The Middlebury park kicked off its 107th season, inviting guests to try its newest thrill ride called Frantic, which spins guests 360 degrees and flips them high above the ground. The new bumper cars for kids were also revealed to the public.

The family-friendly amusement park promises fun for all ages. According to the Quassy website, “The park features more than two-dozen rides and attractions, setting the stage for an interactive day of family fun.”

The Splash Away Bay waterpark and Quassy Beach are scheduled to open on May 23. 


 



Photo Credit: Quassy Amusement & Waterpark]]>
<![CDATA[Meriden Daffodil Festival Kicks Off This Weekend]]> Sat, 25 Apr 2015 11:21:53 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/DaffodilFestivalPic00000000.jpg The daffodils are in full bloom at Hubbard Park and there's a weekend of free family fun ahead.]]> <![CDATA[Eat Like The Louisville Locals Do]]> Fri, 24 Apr 2015 11:54:16 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/214*120/Screen+Shot+2015-04-22+at+2.49.06+PM.png Chef Edward Lee gives us a tour of some authentic Kentucky Derby food and drink. We visit Wagner's Pharmacy, Muth's Candy and Milkwood Restaurant.]]> <![CDATA[Pulitzer Target Line Sparks Frenzy]]> Mon, 20 Apr 2015 12:15:08 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/lilly+pulitzer+for+target.jpg

Lilly Pulitzer's highly anticipated Target collection debut led to disappointment for many shoppers.

For many fans, the Sunday release was filled more with long lines, empty racks and website problems than purchases of the colorfully printed products.

The much-hyped collection was slated to go on sale early Sunday morning, but some online users reported problems with Target’s website. On top of the extreme online traffic, stores across the nation saw large crowds and long lines, with some selling out entirely in just a few minutes.

By Sunday afternoon, Target said products online were nearly sold out.

Target said the response to the debut was “nothing short of remarkable” both online and in stores, but heavy traffic caused slowness on the site that resulted in “an inconsistent experience for our guests.”

The Minneapolis-based company apologized for any disappointment the website troubles caused, but noted the site did not crash. Instead, the company said it took the collection offline for 15-20 minutes to “manage traffic to the site.”

“We took several measures throughout the morning to manage the extreme traffic levels and make the collection accessible to our guests,” the company said in a statement.

The company said it does not plan to replenish the limited-edition collection’s products online or in stores, a move that left many customers disappointed.

The fan frenzy gave several stores a Black Friday feel and had many taking to Twitter using the hashtag #LillyPulitzerforTarget.

Target, which said it would not apologize for items selling out quickly, did address fan frustration as items appeared on eBay for increased prices.

"Seeing items on online auctions reinforces that this collaboration is resonating with customers," the company said in a statement. "Items are becoming collector's items. However, it's disheartening to Target as a brand. Target does these collaborations to make designers available to people at a great price. Putting items on EBay takes away from the entire spirit of the program."
 



Photo Credit: Target.com
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<![CDATA[Heidi Voight Ties for First in Ballroom Dancing Competition]]> Sun, 19 Apr 2015 13:59:32 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Heidi+Voight+Ballroom+Dancing+1200.jpg

NBC Connecticut traffic reporter Heidi Voight keeps you updated on traffic while you're on the move to work weekday mornings and on Saturday night she showed off her moves on the dance floor as she and dance partner Todd Russell tied for first at CRIS Radio's Dancing with the Stars competition in Hartford.

"It was a lifelong dream come true. I have always wanted to learn to dance, but growing up in a single parent family of five kids, we couldn't afford lessons or dance shoes -- we were just trying to make ends meet and keep food on the table," Voight said. "It wasn't possible in my reality then. So to have this opportunity all these years later... it's very emotional for me. My childhood dream came true, even if for just one night."

The friendly ballroom dancing competition was part of CRIS Radio's fifth annual Dining & Dancing in the Dark event at The Bond Ballroom on Asylum Street in Hartford. The event raised money for the radio station, which is Connecticut's only radio reading service for the disabled and visually-impaired.

Voight and Russell scored a perfect 10 from all the judges to tie for first place and earn the Mirror Ball trophy.

"Learning to dance was a challenge that took me outside my comfort zone. It was harder than I thought it would be, but for the same reason, even more rewarding. And every time I felt nervous or overwhelmed I would think about what those who are blind have to deal with on a daily basis, navigating a world that assumes everyone can see," Voight said. "I am friends with several veterans who lost their eyesight to IED blasts in Afghanistan and Iraq. They have had to relearn how to do everything without sight - from tiny things we take for granted like putting toothpaste on a toothbrush, to learning how to use a white cane or guide dog to be able to travel independently again. Dancing seems easy in comparison."

Voight competed against WFSB reporters Jill Konopka and Evan White, WFSB news anchor Mark Zinni, Hartford Deputy Treasurer Carmen Sierra and Marilyn Alverio, founding producer of Latinas & Power Symposium and vice president of marketing for Camelo Communication before judges Mary Ellen Fillo, the Java columnist for the Hartford Courant, Floyd Green, vice president and head of community relations and urban marketing at Aetna, Fox CT and CBS Radio Hartford chief meteorologist Joe Furey and Heather Leydon, a professional ballroom dancer and instructor, according to the event flyer. WFSB meteorologist and Better Connecticut co-host Scot Haney emceed the event.

Voight and Russell tied with Alverio.

"My partner Todd Russell (owner of Arthur Murray Vernon) was absolutely brilliant - so patient, kind and easy to learn from," Voight said. "And I discovered for myself why so many people fall in love with ballroom dance. It's a throwback to another time when men were gentle men and women were ladies. And it's an incredible stress release. There were plenty of days I would come into the dance studio carrying stress, and by the end of the lesson I'd be laughing and smiling and feeling refreshed. When you're dancing, you forget all your troubles. It forces you to be truly and completely in the present, and that something that's rare in our busy lives."

Eight to the Bar also played music and New Britain Arthur Murray studio professional ballroom dancers performed, according to the event flyer.

Guests were encouraged to wear "groovy" 1970s outfits and were asked to donate $100 to the radio station, according to the event notice. They were served a three-course dinner as they watched the dancing.



Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com
This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story on our mobile site.]]>
<![CDATA[Food Truck Festival]]> Sat, 18 Apr 2015 12:25:48 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Meriden+Food+Truck+Fest+Hush+Puppies+1200.jpg Thousands are expected at Meriden's Food Truck Festival at Hubbard Park April 18-19, 2015.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[Food Truck Festival Comes to Meriden This Weekend]]> Sat, 18 Apr 2015 13:26:11 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/food-truck-generic-1.jpg

Thousands of people are expected to spend the day outside at Meriden's Hubbard Park where dozens of vendors took part in a food truck festival.

Bobby B’s was among the 25 food trucks that are participating in the weekend event. They started the morning serving breakfast sandwiches and switched over to hush puppies for the lunch crowd.

"We got bacon, onion, cheddar or black bean, corn, cilantro with pepper jack cheese,” said Renee Brenckman of Bobby B’s.

And at Dee's Flavors, you'll find something cooking up for everyone.

"We have fried dough for the kids. We have fried Oreos for the kids. We have apple fritters. We also have the Spanish rice with beans, the Spanish pork," said Mike McCollough of Dee’s Flavors.

This is the first time the park has hosted a food truck festival on the weekend before its huge Daffodil Festival.

Organizers hope this helps build appetites for the main event next weekend.

"We looked at what's new and different and the food truck thing is taking off around the country and we said let's try it here at the Daffodil Festival so we did it," said Mark Zebora, the chairman of the Daffodil Festival.

You'll also find all sorts of hot dogs, corned beef and Reuben's, grilled cheese and just about anything else you might be craving at the family friendly festival.

The festival runs until 7 p.m. Saturday night and from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sunday.

More information can be found on the event’s Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/events/1563478880575261/?ref=3&ref_newsfeed_story_type=regular&feed_story_type=17)

Here are the food trucks expected to be at the festival:

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<![CDATA[Ben & Jerry's Unveils Ice Cream Burrito]]> Fri, 17 Apr 2015 15:38:21 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/ben-jerry-ice-cream-burrito.jpg

Cup, cone or burrito?

Ben & Jerry's is unveiling a new ice cream burrito, its new treat that splits the difference between a sundae and a waffle cone.

The Vermont-based ice cream company will now serve you any two flavors of ice cream tucked into a chewy waffle wrap and topped with fudge and cookie crumbs — just in time for April 20.

The company not-so-subtly timed the treats to the unofficial pothead holiday, promising it will cure "the ultimate case of the munchies."

Thursday, Ben & Jerry's unveiled another new concoction: A special release beer called Salted Caramel Brownie Brown Ale brewed in collaboration with New Belgium Brewing. It's described as a brown ale laden with chocolatey, salted caramel, vanilla goodness. 

Some of the proceeds from sales of the beer will go to an environmental group fighting the effect of climate change on mountains. More details will be released later this year.



Photo Credit: Courtesy of Ben & Jerry's
This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story on our mobile site.]]>
<![CDATA[ Ben & Jerry's, Craft Brewer Team Up for Ice Cream-Flavored Beer]]> Thu, 16 Apr 2015 14:51:39 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/193*120/benjerrybeer1.jpg

If you have a taste for beer and ice cream, you might like Ben & Jerry's latest offering.

This fall, Vermont's Ben & Jerry's and New Belgium Brewing out of Colorado will begin selling a special release beer called Salted Caramel Brownie Brown Ale. It's described as a brown ale laden with chocolatey, salted caramel, vanilla goodness. 

The brew will come in 22 ounce bottles and contain 6.3 percent alcohol.

"We’re big fans of New Belgium Brewery, their values, and their fun culture, and of course their beer," said Jay Curley, senior global marketing manager of Ben & Jerry’s. "We’re excited for the campaign we’ve developed together."

Some of the proceeds from sales of the beer will go to an environmental group fighting the effect of climate change on mountains. More details will be released later this year.



Photo Credit: New Belgium Brewing]]>
<![CDATA["Lincoln and the Jews": Exhibit Explores President's Push for Equality ]]> Wed, 15 Apr 2015 12:09:47 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/LincolnsLastHoursCROPPED.jpg

Books, museums and movies examining Abraham Lincoln's legacy have long focused on his role in emancipating American slaves in 1863.

But now, one new exhibit is highlighting the 16th president's commitment to fostering equality and acceptance for the nation's Jewish community. 

“Lincoln and the Jews," staged by The New York Historical Society to mark the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War and Lincoln’s assassination, documents Lincoln’s relationship with Jews and details the expansion of the Jewish population in America, which coincided with the famed leader's emergence onto the national political stage.

The number of Jews living in the U.S. grew from just 3,000 when Lincoln was born in 1809 to more than 150,000 at the time of his assassination in 1965, according to "Lincoln and the Jews: A History," the 2015 book that inspired the exhibit. While many in America treated the Jewish community as "second-class citizens and religious outsiders" in the face of the demographic shift, the book argues, Lincoln "exhibited precisely the opposite tendency." 

“When we think of Lincoln's embrace of humanity writ large we tend to think of his advocacy of freedom for African Americans, and his friendship with Frederick Douglass,” Dr. Louise Mirrer, president and CEO of the New-York Historical Society, said. “But this exhibition shows that Lincoln's embrace included American Jews in the face of extreme anti-Semitism."

The exhibit, a collaboration with The Shapell Manuscript Foundation, opens with a wall quote by Lincoln, who in a public letter dated May 17, 1855 protests restrictions on immigration.

“I have some little notoriety for commiserating with the oppressed condition of the negro; and I should be strangely inconsistent if I could favor curtailing the existing rights of white men, even though born in different lands, and speaking different languages from myself," he wrote.

Personal and signed letters, portraits, paintings and artifacts bring to life Lincoln's stories.

One such personal letter is from Lincoln to Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, dated Nov. 4, 1862.

In the letter, Lincoln notes to Stanton, “I believe we have not yet appointed a Hebrew" and informs him that he is appointing C.M. Levy – the son-in-law of Rabbi Morris Raphall of Congregation B’nai Jeshurun, a well-known Orthodox Jew in New York – “Assistant Quarter Master, with the rank of Captain." Lincoln describes the candidate as “a capable and faithful man.”

Lincoln’s Jewish friends, including Julius Hammerslough, Henry Greenbaum and Abraham Jonas, are also profiled as patrons throughout the exhibit. In one letter, the president calls Jonas, a Jewish lawyer whom Lincoln met in 1843, "one of my most valued friends.”

Grace Oh, a junior at Roslyn High School who was exploring the exhibit as an extra credit assignment," said she found the relationships highlighted in the exhibit enlightening.

“It’s not talked about as much,” she said. "I never knew that Lincoln was [as] supportive of Jews."

While Civil-War savvy visitors may be familiar with Lincoln’s Jewish friendships, Mirrer said, she’s not surprised to hear those reactions. In fact, that's part of the exhibit's goal. 

“I would also hope that by recalling, as this exhibition does, Lincoln—whose assassination shattered the nation's spirit at the very moment it began to taste victory and the return of peace—visitors will be reminded of the causes for which Lincoln lived and died, and by which his countrymen should live henceforth,” she said.

The exhibit runs in New York through June 7 before traveling to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum in Springfield, Illinois.



Photo Credit: Chicago History Museum, ICHI-524]]>
<![CDATA[Tax Day Freebies and Discounts]]> Wed, 15 Apr 2015 16:28:27 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/AP0910251102942.jpg

Wednesday is the deadline for filing income tax returns, a day long associated with the dread of rushing to fill out complicated forms and, perhaps, making a payment to Uncle Sam.

But don't let Tax Day get your down. There are a number of freebies you can cash in on.

The most practical of all tax season freebies is the IRS' Free File program, which allows those who have an adjusted gross income of $58,000 or less to file for free through the agency's website.

Once you have Uncle Sam squared away, you can reward yourself with some Tax Day freebies:

Office Depot is offering two pounds of free document shredding. Staples will do the same for up to five pounds of documents.

Meanwhile, the stressed and the overworked can claim a free massage at participating Hydromassage locations.

Now that you have worked up an appetite, you can enjoy one -- or all -- of the following food freebies:

Boston Market: Buy One Individual Meal and Get One Individual Meal FREE

Bruegger’s Bagels: Big Bagel Bundles are just $10.40 – a $3.50 deduction.

California Tortilla: Free Chips and Quesos.

Great American Cookie: Free Regular Sugar Cookie.

Hard Rock Cafe: Free meal for tax paying singers.

KFC: FREE red velvet cake with the purchase of a 10-piece (or larger) family meal.

McDonald’s: Buy one Big Mac or Quarter Pounder with Cheese and get one for a penny.

Pizza Hut: Visit pizzareturn.com for a chance to win Pizza Hut gift cards.

Schlotzsky’s: One free small The Original sandwich with the purchase of a 32 oz. drink and a bag of chips.

If you want to use your refund to get away from it all (well, maybe just away from your house if you live in D.C.), some area hotels are offering discounts and freebies for Tax Day.

Marriott: Anyone who books a room on marriott.com can get 25 percent off the chain's best weekend rate for hotels in Washington, D.C. and Arlington from May 2 until Sept. 8.

Kimpton: You will get "The Procrastinator" cocktail for free at Kimpton's 12 hotels in D.C., Alexandria and Baltimore if you can show that you've sent in your taxes.



Photo Credit: AP
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<![CDATA[Ben and Jerry's to Hand Out Ice Cream for Free Cone Day]]> Tue, 14 Apr 2015 10:35:49 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/ben-jerry-ice-cream.jpg

What's better on a spring day than free ice cream? 

Ben & Jerry's will be giving away ice cream for Free Cone Day on Tuesday.

You can get your free, tasty treat from noon until 8 p.m. at several locations in Connecticut.

The cones will be handed out on a first-come, first-served basis.

There are Ben & Jerry's locations at:

  • 5 1/2 South Main in West Hartford
  • 110 Albany Turnpike, Shoppes at Farmington Valley, in Canton
  • 978 Main Street in Branford
  • 1 Mohegan Sun Boulevard, Mohegan Sun Casino Complex, Space C130 in Uncasville

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<![CDATA[Tim McGraw to Perform Concert for Sandy Hook Promise]]> Mon, 13 Apr 2015 13:24:43 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/rodeo20158.jpg

Country singer Tim McGraw will be performing a special concert in Connecticut this summer and all of the proceeds will be going to Sandy Hook Promise, an organization founded in the wake of the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut in 2012.

Sandy Hook Promise is close to McGraw’s heart.

“Out of this tragedy a group was formed that made a promise to honor the lives lost and turn it into a moment of transformation,” McGraw in a statement. “Sandy Hook Promise teaches that we can do something to protect our children from gun violence. I want to be a part of that promise – as a father and as a friend.”

Dean Brown, the fiddle player in McGraw’s touring band, is a longtime friend to Mark Barden, a musician and father of a Daniel Barden, who was killed in the 2012 tragedy.

“I look forward to being a part of a night of hope and promise and music that will help continue the great work that Sandy Hook Promise is doing,” Dean Brown said.

Mark Barden said his family is “humbled” that McGraw would do this.

“Dean and his wife Cindy helped my wife and I through our darkest hour and helped buoy our spirits. It meant more than words could ever say,” he said.

McGraw’s show, A Concert for Sandy Hook Promise, is slated for July 17 at XFINITY Theatre in Hartford.

Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. on Friday and 100 percent of the net proceeds event will benefit the local organization.

You can buy the tickets for “Tim McGraw: A Concert for Sandy Hook Promise” through LiveNation.com and Ticketmaster. Charge By Phone 800-745-3000

Featured performers will include McGraw’s current tour mates, Billy Currington and Chase Bryant, along with special surprise guests to be announced later.

You can donate directly to Sandy Hook Promise at the organization’s Web site.
 

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<![CDATA[Selena to Perform as a Hologram?]]> Thu, 09 Apr 2015 11:15:26 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Selena_Cantando.jpg

You may be able to see Selena perform in the 21st century – as a hologram.

That’s part of a new plan by a San Diego-based company to create a digital embodiment of the late singer. She will dance, perform new songs and collaborate with other artists.

The project is being spearheaded by Acrovirt LLC., which is working with Selena’s family and the University of California San Diego to launch the hologram.

"Selena is a Latin American icon who was taken before her time. Acrovirt and the Quintanilla family are excited to announce that Selena will continue to share her creative talents with the world in a new innovative way," Acrovirt co-founder Terry Kennedy said in an online statement.

You could see the hologram in 2018 if a $500,000 crowdfunding campaign is successful. The campaign starts on April 16.

Selena’s dad, Abraham Quintanilla, told BuzzFeed News that he wouldn’t describe it as a hologram.

“It’s a newer technology – more advanced than hologram,” he said in an email to BuzzFeed.

The superstar was killed in 1995 at the hands of her fan club president, Yolanda Saldivar, who is serving a life sentence in Selena's death.

Fans marked the 20th anniversary of her death last week by celebrating her life, holding festivals, concerts, exhibitions and even lookalike contests in her honor across the country.

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<![CDATA[Disney, Dali on Focus in New Museum Exhibit]]> Wed, 08 Apr 2015 11:29:56 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/205*120/disneyfamilymuseum.jpg

The work of famous imagineers Walt Disney and Salvador Dali will be exhibited together in San Francisco's Presidio this summer.

Mounted by The Walt Disney Family Museum, "Disney and Dalí: Architects of the Imagination" reveals that the two were actually mutual admirers who collaborated; Dalí worked on an animated short called "Destino" at Walt Disney Studio in 1946 that was finished after their deaths.

According to a press statement, the exhibit will display original paintings, sketches, film, photos, audio and even a series of written correspondence between Disney and Dalí.

The exhibit will run at the Diane Disney Miller Exhibition Hall from July 10 to January 3, 2016.



Photo Credit: The Walt Disney Family Museum]]>
<![CDATA[11 Weird Beers For National Beer Day]]> Fri, 10 Apr 2015 21:49:42 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/rerwerr4534534.jpg

What better day to defer from your usual drink order than on National Beer Day? Here are 11 crazy craft brew concoctions that are so strange you'll be dying to try them out for yourself:

 

1. Pizza Beer by Mamma Mia! Pizza Beer

 

A photo posted by Chad Irvin (@shwirv11) on

 

 2. Popcorn Pilsner by Sun King Brewing

 

3. Voodoo Doughnut Bacon Maple Ale by Rogue Ales & Spirits

 

A photo posted by Rogue Ales (@rogueales) on

 

 4. Banana Bread Beer by Charles Wells Brewery

 

5. Avocado Ale by Angel City Brewery

 

6. Key Lime Pie Beer by Short's Brewing Company

 

7. Sriracha Hot Stout by Rogue Ales & Spirits

 

A photo posted by Rogue Ales (@rogueales) on

 

8. Peanut Butter Cup Coffee Porter by Willoughby Brewing Company

 

A photo posted by ohiohophead (@ohiohophead) on

 

 9. Wostyntje Mustard Ale by Smisje Brewery

 

10. Rocky Mountain Oyster Stout (Brewed With Bull Testicles) by Wynkoop Brewing Company

 

11. Smore's Stout by Base Camp Brewing Company



Photo Credit: Rogue Ales]]>
<![CDATA[Pop Culture Spectacular: WonderCon Anaheim]]> Mon, 06 Apr 2015 09:35:17 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/w485692291.jpg The comics-and-more convention summons costume-ready fans and the properties they love.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Arts & Ideas Festival to Be Held in June]]> Tue, 31 Mar 2015 15:30:32 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Lucinda+Williams.jpg

The schedule is out for New Haven’s 20th annual International Festival of Arts & Ideas, which takes place in June, and it includes lectures, performances and conversations led by internationally renowned artists and thinkers.

“We are celebrating great art and big ideas that are influencing today’s world, as well as 20 years of great accomplishments that have brought us to this milestone year,” Mary Lou Aleskie, the festival’s executive director, said in a news release.

The festival was first established in 1996 as a way of promoting the state of Connecticut as being enriched in culture, arts, and educational traditions.

The 15-day festival will run from June 12 until June 27 and will offer free programs to the public featuring jazz and classical music, dance, and theatre performances.

Tickets for festival members went on sale March 25 and will open to the general public on April 15, but those without tickets can attend free concerts on the New Haven Green from artists including Lucinda Williams and The New Haven Symphony Orchestra.

The festival will also include an exclusive East Coast engagement of Mark Morris Dance Group’s Acis and Galatea, and several other performing arts presentations.

The ideas program of the festival will come into play with conversations open to the public with New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast, poet Claudia Rankine, and journalist Jelani Cobb. Feature films, and documentaries of varying topics will also be presented throughout the festival.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>