For Dave Sugrue, life’s a beach

From the Ocean Beach archives: David Sugrue, left, works with lifelong friend Joe Hage at the concession during a Polka Days celebration.
From the Ocean Beach archives: David Sugrue, left, works with lifelong friend Joe Hage at the concession during a Polka Days celebration.

This is the 27th summer David Sugrue is working at Ocean Beach Park, the last 15 of those sun-splashed months as general manager for Centerplate, which manages the park for the City of New London.

Ocean Beach Park features a half-mile-long boardwalk, playground, water slides, amusement rides, carousel, video arcade, 18-hole miniature golf course, a spray park for kids younger than 8 years old (free admission with parking) and a 50-meter Olympic swimming pool. The beach hosts many special events throughout the summer, from classic car to magic shows, movies and live music on the beach. It's also a popular spot for weddings and special events.

Sugrue is a graduate of Waterford High School and earned a marketing degree from the University of Hartford.

He is the president of the New England Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions and a board member of the Greater Mystic Visitors Bureau. Surgrue lives in Waterford with his wife, Nancy, and children, Hannah and David. Sugrue's son Richard serves the United States Navy.

Say you have a modern-day high school locker. Whose picture would be hanging in it?

My wife Nancy and three kids, Richard, Hannah and David have an important place in all I do, so it would be their picture.

What's your favorite sandwich?

Foot-long hot dog on a buttery grilled roll.

You're locked in a museum for a night, which one would it be?

I love New London, so that would be the Custom House Maritime Museum, which is a real gem. I'd be very comfortable there.

What's your favorite word or phrase in a language other than English?

La playa (Spanish for 'the beach').

Other than Ocean Beach Park, of course, what's the best beach you've been to?

Playa Del Carmen in Mexico is a great beach and town that we have visited as a family.

Who played at your first live concert?

Grateful Dead at the Hartford Civic Center.

Sorry to have to tell you this, but an asteroid is going to wipe out all humanity next week. So, what's your last meal and who is coming to dinner?

I'm a steak, potato and vegetable guy. I'd invite all of my family, friends, great neighbors and, of course, an asteroid expert to plan our strategy.

What's the toughest hole at the Ocean Beach Mini Golf Course?

The whale has always been the biggest challenge. It's an Ocean Beach Park icon. It has to spout so there is plumbing with an electric timer, and of course there are issues where the pipe gets blocked and the ball gets stuck. One morning we came in to find the whole whale was cracked in half. Who do you call for that? This year's big buzz is what color it should be, yellow or gray? Challenging from my perspective, right?

Other than your smartphone, name an item you can't live without:

My old Mercedes that uses discarded fry oil from the park's food court as fuel.

Item you should live without and keep meaning to get rid of:

Foot-long hot dog on a buttery grilled roll.

You're a DJ at club. What's the night's last song?

Thirty-five years ago when I worked at the Gunni Pub here at Ocean Beach Park, we couldn't close the place until we all heard Frank Sinatra's "New York, New York" on the jukebox. A few friends felt it necessary to end the night by singing on the tables so it's really a no-brainer.

What's the last televison show you binge-watched?

Just discovered Netflix this year to find out we could watch two full seasons of "Walking Dead" in just under three weeks. Zombies on the screen and in front of it.

If present-day you could give advice to the younger you, what would it be?

Big challenges can be broken down into smaller projects for long-term success. Oh, and put down the fork.

Last book you couldn't put down:

"Odd Thomas" by Dean Koontz.

What's a word you can never spell correctly on the first try:

Feul ... or is it fuel ?

Which movie, television show or theatrical production most accurately depicts life as the director of a public beach?

I have always compared the people here to a "Seinfeld," episode, but our characters are even more interesting and storylines can be even more absurd. There is a lot of great material here.

Coffee or tea?

Yesterday's black coffee.

Saturday night or Sunday morning?

Nothing better than a sunny summer Sunday morning with lines of cars down Ocean Ave., watching excited kids cross the boardwalk for their day at the beach. It really is quite rewarding.

Sandcastles or White Castle?

Although Tom, who drives the sandsifter in the morning would disagree, I love seeing the great sandcastles here and the pride kids take in crafting them.

Wack-A-Mole or Skee-ball?

The Skee-balls here in the park are the same ones I played as a kid and still every bit as fun. ... One would think I'd be better at it by now.

What is your pet peeve?

Summer inclement weather (we don't use the "R" word) before 10 p.m.

What historical event would you like to have witnessed?

July 20, 1969, the Apollo 11 moon landing. I was 8 years old and remember the tremendous excitement we all shared in black and white that there actually was a man on the moon.

What is your favorite place in Connecticut to recharge and/or find serenity?

When I have a stressful day, I walk down to the creek area of the park or the Nature Walk Observation Deck. I spent most of my summer days there as a kid with my family and am still impressed that when you are there you are in one of the more populated places in eastern Connecticut, but would never know it

The person alive today you most admire?

My best friend, life partner and wife Nancy.

About 'Tell Me Something'

This feature originally appeared on Produced by Grace magazine, "Tell Me Something" is a weekly Q&A, which highlights interesting local people doing interesting things. Past articles appear in Daybreak each week. Know someone we should profile? Send suggestions to


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