The town crier who stood in the lobby of the William Pitt Center on the Sacred Heart University campus Saturday relied on subtle movements rather than full-throated calls to action as he welcomed the sold-out crowd of 400 revelers to Fairfield's 375th gala, which capped off a year-long anniversary celebration.
The performance artist was mistaken by many for a life-size statue and startled some of them when he gestured toward the entrance. "Oh, you scared me," said a surprised state Rep. Brenda Kupchick.
Inside, other performers were costumed as a sea captain and dogwood trees, and four large screens projected images of the town's notable landmarks representing different sections of Fairfield. A fifth screen showed photographs and told stories about the people and events that shaped the town from 1639 to the present.
"This is the big finale, the grand finale," said Julia DeMeo, one of four co-chairmen of the anniversary committee. "It's really a celebration of 375 years of history, but also Fairfield today."
The elegant evening became interactive at one point when First Selectman Michael Tetreau was shown in a video throwing a large blue-and-white beach ball that traveled from one picture frame to another of various scenes throughout town. The ball bounced off iconic structures and floated across Southport Harbor. It was caught by residents in one frame and they tossed it to people in the next frame.
As Tetreau walked onto the dance floor for a brief presentation the beach ball rolled passed him and rested at the feet of party-goers at one table. When the dancing commenced the ball -- emblazoned with the word "Fairfield" on one side and "375th" on the other -- was again a focal point as it was batted and spiked and kicked from one dancer to the next.
During his presentation Tetreau told the crowd to "take notes. There will be a quiz in 25 years."
Each corner of the room represented a different section of town -- the top of Greenfield Hill with an image of the congregational church, Fairfield beaches, the business district, and Sherman Gazebo. Each section featured catering staff serving gourmet selections from a shrimp and raw bar that featured an ice sculpture of Penfield Lighthouse to roasted turkey, from a sushi bar to a roast beef carving station.
"A different menu at every venue ... Make sure you sample all four corners," Tetreau said.
Tetreau called the four co-chairmen the "MVPs" of the evening. Lee Crouch, Town Clerk Betsy Browne and Julia DeMeo got bouquets of flowers. Marlene Battista was unable to attend because of a family wedding.
Jeanne Harrison, a Fairfielder of the Year awardee and painter of fire hydrants with Colonial-era decorations throughout town, was also honored. She received a hand-crafted walking stick to replace a special cane that was stolen from her during the Barnum Festival. "I love my cane. I miss my other one, but this is great," she said.
Pink Shack, winner of the Chamber of Commerce Bake-Off competition, provided a five-tiered cake topped with a champagne bottle for the festivities. It featured decorations of Fairfield landmarks like the Pequot Library and Fairfield Theatre Company, and photographs created with edible ink.
Tetreau cut the cake with representatives of Sacred Heart and Fairfield universities, calling both institutions "part of our heritage but more importantly part of our future."
Throughout the night, people were able to pose for photographs in front of a green screen and then they selected a Fairfield scene as the background.
"This is phenomenal," said Sheryl Shaughnessey of Fairfield.