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Susan and Brian White were in Italy earlier this week, and were happily surprised at a tribute to their home country on Monday, the 22nd anniversary of 9/11. As they were walking along the along the roof of the Duomo in Milan, this beautiful tribute from the Italian military unfolded above them.

For a limited time Ben’s Bells Connecticut is offering Halloween To-Go Kits, featuring specialty orange, black and white paint just in time for October 31. These special kits are meant to be done off-site, with all ages able to decorate 25 small clay coins with the design of their choice. Kits are $25 each, will include 25 clay coins ready for painting. They’ll be available as of September 25, and must be ordered no later than October 12. Finished kits will be returned to the studio in Stony Hill, where they will be fired in the kiln there. The coins will be ready for final pick-up on October 21, in time to hand out during Halloween festivities. Interested? Visit bensbells.org/Halloween to learn everything you need and/or to place an order.

You know what’s scary? Japanese knotweed. It looks like bamboo, but it’s a mean little bugger. Native to East Asia, it grows very aggressively and is spreading relatively unchecked in town — think everywhere from roadsides to Dickinson Park, Fairfield Hills and along the banks of the Pootatuck. It’s also growing across the country and even eight of Canada’s ten provinces. Its rhizomes, or roots, go very deep and transplant very easily. In the United Kingdom the invasive is so rampant, it can drive property values down as much as ten percent, according to Protect Our Pollinators. Sell your house on the other side of the pond without disclosing an infestation? You can quickly find yourself in legal trouble. There’s good news here, I promise. A local coalition, Newtown Knotweed Initiative, is working to rid Newtown of the invasive weed. Its first project is a website (newtownknotweed.org) that invites people to join the group’s mapping process that is showing where Japanese knotweed is growing. There are dozens of photos and notes already recorded. If you’d like to add to the collection, take a photo with your cell phone, note the location, and send everything to NewtownKnotweed@gmail.com, and it will be added to the map.

Edmond Town Hall was all things pink last weekend, thanks to six free screenings of Barbie. While the local audiences didn’t pay for their tickets, Ingersoll Auto of Danbury did, adding to the $1.4 billion — yes, billion, with a B, like Barbie — and growing worldwide gross of the film starring Margot Robbie and a blonde Ryan Gosling (and his beautiful abs). Five of last weekend’s screenings at 45 Main Street were sold out, with nearly 3,000 people taking in at least one show, according to ETH Business Manager Lauren DiMartino. “We love bringing these events to our community,” she said Monday morning, still pink with happiness. “Thousands of people walked through our doors this weekend, and smiled when they saw how the lobby was dressed in pink and glitter. Someone said, ‘You don’t see this at [a movie theater chain we don’t want to embarrass her],’ and that’s exactly what we want people to remember!” Even the ETH staff got into the pink of things, adding the punch of color to their outfits as possible.

Lauren is part of an exciting shift inside 45 Main Street, where it’s about a lot more than movies these days (Jeffrey Gaines! Molly Ringwald! Flagpole Radio Cafe!). Watch next week’s Newtown Bee for a conversation with her and fellow ETH employee Anthony Sartori, the building’s recently hired operations manager.

I understand this year’s Pancakes & Parking was among the best yet for those who continue to organize the Newtown Congregational Church pre-Labor Day Parade event. Katherine Simpson sent a nice letter to us (see this week’s Letter Hive) with a note of thanks. I heard from another grateful organizer that somewhere around 165 people enjoyed the pancake breakfast on Monday, September 4. It sounds like the kitchen crew really scrambled to make sure everyone was fed, and that was after guests were ushered into the parking lot by members of the NCC family and Scout Troop 270.

Speaking of one of the town’s oldest communities of faith, Newtown Congregational Church continues to be a leader in hosting successful blood drives. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic over three years ago, the church has hosted at least two American Red Cross blood drives every month. The church was recently recognized as a 2023 Premier Blood Partner. As of late last week, 778 units of blood had been collected through this year’s blood drives. Organizers are hoping to meet if not better last year’s total of 1,032 units collected. While the church is doing just one blood drive each month through the end of the year, that still means three more opportunities right around the corner. If it has been at least 56 days since your last blood donation, keep in mind Thursday, October 26; Friday, November 10; and/or Friday, December 8. Visit redcrossblood.org for openings on any of those dates.

Of course, nothing says you have to go through NCC to donate blood. Appointments are always available across the region for anyone who wants to make a difference. Visit the website above for details.

One more note this week related to our friends at 14 West Street: Save the date of Saturday, October 21, which has been announced for this year’s Annual Mississippi BBQ & Shrimp Boil. The fall fundraiser will again raise funds for Back Bay Mission, which NCC has been actively supporting through funds and manpower since late 2006.

Speaking of Save The Dates, here’s another one to note: Newtown Lions Club is working with Big Y World Class Market and the US Army 411th Civil Affairs Battalion to conduct a Stuff-A-Truck event later this month. Volunteers will be in front of the 6 Queen Street supermarket on September 30, and organizers are promising to make it as easy as possible to support multiple food pantries with one stop. Additional details next week.

Being the confident feline that I am, I feel secure in thinking that I deserve to be a calendar cat. Fortunately, for other local pets, New Fairfield/Sherman Animal Welfare is reminding me to play fair and not hog all 12 months of the 2024 calendar its volunteers are putting together. If you think your dog and/or cat should be featured in the calendar, visit NFSAW.org ASAP! Voting has already opened, but it continues through the end of the month and entries are still being accepted. Cost is $10 to enter your pet, and they do not need to be a NFSAW adoptee. In fact, pets don’t even need to be a dog or cat to be entered. How’s that for being open-minded? Don’t have a calendar-worthy pet but want to help? Votes are $1 each, and those funds will also benefit the shelter. The top vote recipient will be on the calendar’s cover and receive a Portraits by ShawnaLee gift certificate (valued at $325) for an 11- by 14-inch pencil or charcoal pet portrait done by artist ShawnaLee Kwashnak. Each of the next 12 top vote getters will be featured as a full-page pet of the month. The second-place recipient will receive a $200 Visa gift certificate and the third-place recipient will receive a dog or cat gift basket valued at $150. All winners will also receive a free copy of the calendar. The contest is raising funds for the abandoned, neglected and abused dogs and cats rescued by the animal shelter in New Fairfield, and celebrating the pets of contestants.

I do hope you’ll consider sharing a photo or two of your favorite pet for the calendar fundraiser. Not everyone is as lucky as me when it comes to good homes and a happy life. I’ll remind you about that again next week if you’ll come back to … read me again.

Susan and Brian White were happily surprised at this tribute to their home country by the Italian military on Monday.
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