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Waterford Historical Society holds event during historic summer

Waterford — Attendees at Saturday's Art in Waterford event on Jordan Green were part of history.

This was 2020, the year everybody was required to wear face masks, stand 6 feet apart and have their temperatures taken before entering any of the Waterford Historical Society buildings.

The coronavirus pandemic delayed the festival showcasing the town's accomplished and aspiring artists. It was initially scheduled for May, when the state was just beginning to reopen following three months of shutdowns to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

"We thought the virus would pass," said Kristen Widham, president of the Waterford Historical Society.

When the Art in Waterford committee met to discuss new dates during an online meeting, First Selectman Robert Brule said, "We're going to do what the governor will let us do," Widham said.

Some members of the historical society whose immune systems are compromised still had to stay home, but the committee organized a mostly outdoor event that enabled a few people at a time to walk one way through the 1838 Beebe-Phillips House, 1740 Jordan Schoolhouse and the more modern Margaret W. Stacy Memorial Barn/Museum, built in 1981.

"We know many of us have been in social isolation," Widham said. "We've had a terrible pandemic. We need edifying things to do."

Widham spoke from the shade of a tent whose tables held everything from masks and hand sanitizer to items forged at the blacksmith shop on the grounds and sketch pads, pencils and clay for kids or adults who wanted to create their own art.

As it turned out, the weather was fairer in August than it had been at last year's spring event. As of late morning, two local artists had set up their easels on the grass and were painting en plein air. Musicians Hugh Birdsall on guitar and Dana Tanaki on violin were performing on the lawn, with two musical acts to follow.

Those who followed the taped one-way arrows across the wide-board kitchen floor of the Beebe House and into the front room had the chance to view the landscapes of artist Nelson H. White and talk to the man, himself. The Whites have lived in Waterford for more than a century. Nelson White, who is 88, studied painting with his grandfather, Henry C. White, and his father, Nelson C. White. He talked Saturday of how he practiced violin for many years before studying painting in Florence.

Standing outside the Beebe-Phillips House, White spoke with John R. Morgan, a descendant of another prolific painting family from Waterford. Morgan's great grandfather, Burtus Anderson Brooks, was a self-taught painter who was friends with White's grandfather, Henry White. The two artists would paint together en plein air, and like the White family, several descendants of Brooks went on to become artists.

"Your (great) grandfather was amazing," White told Morgan.

In the two-room schoolhouse, the old artwork of local high school students was on display.

Across the green, visitors admired a different facet of American history: three classic 20th century cars in pristine condition. Town resident Ben Pipech had brought his black 1932 Ford Roadster, which he described as a "classic hot rod" with a Chevy V8 engine.

Bruce Elliott, a retired local dentist, displayed his 1946 Ford "Woodie," a wood-paneled "beach wagon" with its original 97 horsepower engine and a surf board on top. His wife, Sheila Elliott, had driven her 50th anniversary present to the event: a 1964 Ford Falcon convertible, red with a white top.

The event continues Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.


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