McKinley Carnival averts meltdown as Jennings snow mountains are demolished
The snowfall steamroller that leveled Fairfield this year, with drifts piling up so fast that public works crews trucked the excess to beach parking lots, has slowly run out of gas.
While all that white stuff has pretty much disappeared, the icy snow mountains carted to the Jennings Beach lot had yet to melt as of last week, which worried the PTA planners of the annual McKinley School Carnival that their biggest fundraiser would be a no-go next month.
Parks and Recreation Director Gerry Lombardo had told the PTA that if there were still significant snow remaining in the parking lot when he does a walk-through two weeks in advance of the carnival, which begins April 14, he'd have to pull the plug on the family-friendly event.
"He called me about two weeks ago ... and said we needed to keep our fingers crossed if it would melt," said McKinley PTA President Jennifer Chrysadakis.
But the PTA didn't have to sweat out the possibility that Mother Nature might take its sweet ol' time melting the snow piles at Jennings. McKinley PTA President-elect Jill Kellerman dialed up a favor -- to her husband Rob, co-president of Connecticut Tank Removal -- to ask if something could be done to speed up the melting process.
Last Friday around 8 a.m., Joseph Palmieri, the other CTR co-president, was like a knight in shining armor for the PTA, except he rode in not on a horse, but an orange payloader. Working the big piece of machinery as deftly as a teenager working video game controls, Palmieri was breaking down the snow mountains and spreading them out to hasten the melting. There were already signs the tactic was working halfway through his 8-hour volunteer shift as water began flowing from the once-icy mounds.
If the snow piles had been left as they initially stood, they probably would not have melted in time, Palmieri sad.
"The dirt on top of the piles acts as insulator," he said. "By breaking it up and thinning it, that will allow for the sun to melt it and speed up the melting process."
Palmieri, who grew up in Fairfield and has volunteered at the carnival's food booth over the years, estimated he would move 1,000 cubic yards of snow by the time he wrapped up.
This year's McKinley School Carnival will feature approximately a dozen rides, food (hot dogs, hamburgers, pulled-pork sandwiches) catered by the Shack restaurant, as well as games and prizes, candied apples, cotton candy, popcorn and similar fare. It is the PTA's biggest fundraiser, accounting for roughly 75 percent of the funds the PTA raises throughout the school year.
"We supplement enrichment programs, teacher grants for things in the classroom, we help out with some field trips and provide cultural arts programs (assemblies)," said Chrysadakis. "We like to add to the enrichment and we're able to do that."
The success of the carnival is often based on the weather. Needless to say, Chrysadakis hopes for clear skies throughout the four-day carnival. That would trump last year.
"We did OK. We had two days of rain out of the four," she said.
Chrysadakis said that springtime event is popular "because you can spend quality time with family."
She added "it's one of the first events after winter that Fairfield has at the beach. People are looking to get out and do something outdoors."