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New London - When hundreds of people from New London and Waterford gathered for the sixth annual Buscetto's Bash at the Beach at the Port 'N Starboard at Ocean Beach on Saturday night, the event's organizer, Michael Buscetto III, was busy working the room.
Mere seconds passed between greetings, handshakes and hugs, but he seemed to be enjoying himself, reveling in the support he saw in the form of lines out the door, at the bar and at the food tables.
"It's unbelievable ," Buscetto said. "They're still buying tickets at the door and the beach has no more tables left. We've got them all in here."
At $10 a ticket, and with Buscetto's estimate of the crowd at 1,000 people, $10,000 seemed well within reach. But there also would be proceeds from silent and live auctions - which this year included four tickets on the sidelines of the Miami Dolphins and the Miami Hurricanes, and a $1,000 gift card to Mallove's Jewelers.
Over the past five years, approximately $250,000 has been raised via at the annual Bash and distributed to more than 25 organizations, including Youth Services, New London Main Street, the Women's Center of Southeastern Connecticut, Garde Arts Center, Eugene O'Neill Theatre and Ocean Beach Park. Funds are distributed through the Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut.
This year, Buscetto said, he plans to incorporate more Waterford youth organizations. He said he'd like to contribute to the Friendship School, which serves New London and Waterford students, as well as to New London and Waterford High School art departments, which each host shows at the Hygienic Art Galleries in New London.
"Over the coming years, we have to do more to come together," he said. "I'm trying to bring people together from both towns."
There were more young faces in the crowd this year than in years past, remarked Marie Gravell, who said it shows that the Bash is becoming more than just an "adults-only" event.
"The unity between New London and Waterford ... Waterford circles New London, you know, it's so important to keep people together," Gravell said. "When it comes to youth, people who wouldn't normally give to other things give to the youth, because they're our future."
Buscetto, a New London native and former city councilor who ran for mayor in 2011, left the city for the neighboring town after selling his home on Pequot Avenue. He'll always be "a New London guy," and he said Saturday, while surrounded by longtime friends and family, that he has no plans to run for office in Waterford.
He said New London "has a lot of challenges."
"I never imagined myself as a career politician. My focus now is on my restaurant (Filomena's). I'm there full time and I love it," he said. "My friends are my friends, and they're going to be my friends whether I'm in New London or I'm in Waterford, but things like this help keep us together, and when we come together, we get the most done."