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The first day of school is one of my favorite days each year. It is so full of promise, and my wish is that promise is fulfilled this year. While I would love to be able to make it around to each bus stop to take photos of the town’s smiling (or shaking in their boots) students on Tuesday, August 27, I am only one cat. However, you can share your first day of school photos with The Bee, to run either in print or in a slideshow online. E-mail your photos to my co-worker Eliza Hallabeck, Eliza@thebee.com, by Wednesday, August 28, to be included. Happy learning!

I’m sorry I missed this, for more reasons than one. Set to “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” Catapult Entertainment delivered a shadow routine with  moves serving as a tribute to victims of 12/14, during Tuesday night’s “America’s Got Talent” program. Even notoriously tough panelist Howard Stern was moved by the performance.

You don’t even have to be going back to school to take advantage of the last couple of days of tax-free purchases. Tax Free Shopping Days in Connecticut, through Saturday, August 24, allows shoppers to purchase most individual items of clothing and footwear priced under $300 without having to pay the usual sales and use tax. If you like to stock up on fall favorites, like jeans, chinos, suits, sweaters, and boots, and sneakers before heading off to school (or work!) you can save a bundle. A tax of 6.35 percent adds up pretty quickly when outfitting the family.

Young readers and their parents familiar with Newtown illustrator Jennifer Thermes’ style will be excited to hear that her lovely watercolors will grace the pages of a new picture book, Helen Keller’s Best Friend Belle, by Holly M. Barry, to be released in September. Ms Thermes has been the illustrator for other picture books based on history, and this book about the deaf, blind, and mute girl (who became a famous author and lecturer) and her faithful canine companion is another winner. I’m keeping my paws crossed, of course, that her next series of illustrations will picture the famous presidents’ cats, perhaps…

A Catalina 22 sailboat bearing the name Benjamin Chase, named after Benjamin Wheeler, 6, and Chase Kowalski, 7, both killed 12/14, now sails the Potomac River, according to Potomac Local News in Woodbridge, Va. At the helm will be the Sea Scouts Ship 100 crew from Gainesville, a group of co-ed scouts, which chose the name for the newly donated boat. Both and Benjamin and Chase were members of Cub Scout Pack 170 in Newtown. The tribute was held at Leesylvania State Park this past weekend, as Rebecca Kowalski and Francine Wheeler looked on. After Sea Scout 100 skipper Todd Skiles sprinkled holy water on the Benjamin Chase, the mothers and family members boarded the vessel, which then left dock and set out on the Potomac River where the petals of 26 roses were placed into the river in memory of the shooting victims. A Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Boat then sprayed its water hoses in tribute to the victims.

To the young men in the black Volkswagen on Route 302, Tuesday morning: bad enough you were tailgating other drivers; but throwing a wrapper out the window? What a selfish disregard for our environment.

I hear there has been a bobcat prowling around the back yard at the Ebert home on White Wood Road, so if you live in that area of town and have small pets that like to be outside, keep a close eye on them. Mr Bobcat has been sauntering about in broad daylight.

Congratulations to the Fireside Women’s Softball Team, which captured its fourth consecutive league title on August 16, battling it out against the Black Swan team.

Knowing what is important and what is not is impossible to tell, without input. So stop by one of the next two focus groups at the C.H. Booth Library to put in your two cents. Library Director Shawn Fields is seeking public comments to help in putting together a vision plan for the library’s future. Meet him in the meeting room of the library at 10 am, Saturday, August 24, or Tuesday evening, August 27, at 7 pm. Don’t complain if the library of the future is not what you hoped for, if you don’t take advantage of these opportunities to put forth your ideas.

McLaughlin Vineyards, on Albert’s Hill Road, hosts the fourth annual Shakesperience in Sandy Hook, Much Ado About Nothing, this Saturday, August 24. Pack your picnic basket and enjoy the views at the vineyard for the two-hour performance. All donations will be matched by the Connecticut Community Foundation to benefit the scholarship program for young people to enroll in Shakesperience Acting Intensives throughout the year. The performance begins at 4 pm. Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for kids under 12, and a family of four is $40. For tickets go to www.mclaughlinvineyards.com or call 203-426-1533.

Run, run, as fast as you can — you can’t catch me… or maybe you can. The Newtown Road Race, to benefit Newtown Youth & Family Services, is Saturday, August 31. If you can move your two feet, you’re welcome to register at www.newtownroadrace.com. Contact Steve Meeker at newtownroadrace@yahoo.com with any questions. The race is at Dickinson Park, and takes off at 9 am.

You’ll have all day Sunday to recover from the Road Race; but don’t forget to put out your chair along Main Street Sunday night to mark your favorite viewing spot for the Monday, September 2, 52nd Annual Newtown Labor Day Parade. Floats, clowns, bands, dancers, horses, dogs (and even ducks, I hear) all add up to a fun morning. Plus, there is ample opportunity to schmooze with your friends along the parade route. Want to support the parade? Visit www.newtownctlabordayparade.org, or look for the coupon in The Bee.

FAITH Food Pantry is hoping to find a civic group, a scout group, or even a bunch of neighbors willing commit to collecting nonperishable goods along the parade route this year. All that’s needed is a pickup truck or van and some enthusiasm, to follow the FAITH Food Pantry entry. Call Lee at 203-426-5604 to volunteer. FAITH is in great need of assistance, with demand outstripping donations. The free food assistance program, located in the basement of St John’s Episcopal Church, fed 49 people (19 families) just this past week.

In between checking my donations for expiration dates before I bring them by the food pantry, I’ll be up to my old tricks: getting to the heart of news in Newtown that you want to know. Open up The Bee next week, where you can… Read me again.

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