Story by Robin Lee Michel
Photos by Marissa Carole Dembkoski

Melissa and Brian Gatesman, who live in the Albany, N.Y., suburb of Colonie, N.Y., had an unusual route when they took their holiday-time trip to New York City. Instead of heading directly south, they drove 120 miles east. Their first stop was Windsor Locks to take part in the Not-So-Snooty, Beer, Wine and Cheese Tasting Adventure. This year, Bradley Family Day’s event at the New England Air Museum was held Nov. 22.

The fest, sponsored by JetBlue Airways, benefits the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, a program founded in 1988 by actor Paul Newman to give seriously ill children ages 7 to 15 the opportunity to experience camp with fun, friendship and spirit of childhood. The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp also offers family programming and brings outreach activities to hospitalized children unable to attend camp. The first camp opened in Ashford, and there are now 15 camps collectively known as SeriousFun Children’s Network in the United States and abroad. Each year, more than 20,000 children and family members use the services — all provided free of charge.

“We first came six years ago because the proceeds go to a good cause,” Brian Gatesman said. Since that time they have seen many more breweries and wineries showcased. “The food is spectacular and the service is unbelievable. We feel spoiled,” he said. The couple had reservations to stay in one of the high-end hotels near Bradley International Airport and then were heading the next morning to New York City for shopping and sightseeing.

Kathy Maznicki, who is one of the fundraiser’s founding committee members, said the affiliation between the Bradley Family Fun Day organization and the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp began 13 years ago when a camp board member suggested involving the Bradley International Airport community in supporting the good cause. At first the family day was exactly that: an open house to give the public the opportunity to see aircraft up close. Even though the family event has been phased out, the name remains, and two fundraisers —the wine and beer fest, and a breakfast — continue.

More than 450 guests mingled in the air museum’s two main indoor exhibit areas to sample wine, beer and food, while listening to live jazz by the Pratt & Whitney Screamin’ Eagles. They also browsed the displays, tried flight simulators and viewed the collection of authentic and replica aircraft representing aviation history from pioneers to the jet age.

North Granby resident Deborah Zanella said she was quite impressed by and pleased to be at the event for the first time. “I’m really surprised with the variety of the collection,” she said as she viewed a display about the role the Polish Air Force played in World War II. “I never knew about this,” she said, referring to the little-known history.

Maria Angelita Gomez, director of annual giving for the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, said the air museum was an exciting venue. “This event is in the top 15 percent of our fundraisers. It’s terrific how the committee has taken ownership of our mission. It’s great to have them for advocates,” Gomez said.

The venture would not be possible if not for all the corporate sponsors and fleet of volunteers, Maznicki said. This year’s major raffle prizes included roundtrip tickets (JetBlue), overnight stays (five different hotels) and women’s basketball tickets (Signature Flight Support). Executive Cuisine Catering, of New Milford, which caters food for private jet customers, served an extensive array of hot and cold delicacies.

“JetBlue has been a proud supporter of the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp since we launched our service from Bradley Airport in November 2010,” said Ronda Ivy McLeod, manager of regional marketing for JetBlue. “We have a longstanding commitment to supporting the people, places and events that matter most to the communities we serve, and we are proud to support the good work of the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp.”

Maznicki said she expects future Not-So-Snooty, Beer, Wine and Cheese Tasting Adventures to continue to grow in popularity and attendance. “We don’t advertise. It’s all word of mouth,” she said. “It’s a nice night out. And benefits a wonderful cause.”


Waterford Hotel Group has announced the promotion of Christopher Allen to general manager of the 237-room full-service Sheraton Hartford Hotel at Bradley Airport, located in Windsor Locks. The hotel is owned by R.K. Bradley Associates, a partnership between affiliates of Konover Hotel Corp., the hotel’s asset manager, and Waterford Hotel Group, which operates the hotel.
Allen boasts more than 25 years of food, beverage and hospitality experience, and as general manager for the Sheraton Hartford will oversee all operational, sales and administrative aspects of the property. He joins the Sheraton team from his most recent role as director of operations for the 285-room Mystic Marriott Hotel & Spa, where he oversaw the rooms and food and beverage departments of the hotel. Before joining the Mystic Marriott, Allen served as resident hotel manager for the Boston Cambridge Marriott in Massachusetts, as well as food and beverage director for several properties, including the Marriott Seaview Resort & Spa in New Jersey and the Statler Hotel & J.W. Marriott Executive Education Center at the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration in Ithaca, N.Y.
“Chris has been an important asset to the company due to his extensive hospitality management experience,” said Rob Winchester, president and COO for Waterford Hotel Group. “This is a well-deserved promotion and we wish him great success in his new role at the Sheraton Hartford.”
Allen holds a certificate from the Executive Education General Manager’s Program at the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration, a bachelor’s degree in hotel, restaurant and travel administration from the University of Massachusetts, and an associate degree in occupational sciences-culinary arts from Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island. He currently resides in Medford, Mass.
The Sheraton Hartford Hotel is located inside the Bradley airport complex, with an elevator from the indoor, underground 300-car parking garage providing direct access to the hotel and Bradley International Airport terminals. The Sheraton has been renovated to include new beddinChristopherAlleng, bathrooms and amenities. On-site amenities of the 10-story hotel include a concierge floor and lounge, an indoor swimming pool and complete exercise facility, high speed Internet access, 15 meeting rooms, a full-service restaurant, lounge, Starbucks Café, and grand ballroom to accommodate meeting and banquet functions up to 400 people.
Waterford Hotel Group is one of the nation’s leading hotel and convention center management companies. The company operates 29 properties in eight states, representing more than 3,500 total rooms and nearly 700,000 square feet of meeting and convention space. For more information, visit

The Connecticut Airport Authority and Standard Parking Inc. have begun a new Frequent Parker program, known as Auto-Pilot Rewards, has been implemented at Bradley International Airport. The program started Oct. 1, and in its first month more than 500 customers were enrolled. The program uses automated vehicle identification technology linked to a credit card that allows easy entry and exiting. Customer credit cards are automatically charged and Frequent Parker credits are accumulated on customer accounts.

A second parking program, ClickAndPark.Com, which is also available at Bradley, is a simple, easy-to-use online reservation program that gives Bradley Airport parking customers the ability to reserve Premium Parking. On-airport parking patrons are able to reserve parking on Level 3 of the parking garage, in an area closest to the pedestrian walkway that leads to the ticketing level of the terminal. When making an online reservation, the customer will receive a parking permit, customized directions showing the best route to the Bradley parking garage, and how to locate the designated Premium Parking area.
Kevin A. Dillon, executive director of the CAA, said, “These on-airport parking amenities are another example of the Connecticut Airport Authority’s continuing efforts to enhance the customer experience and satisfaction at all CAA facilities. Our partner Standard Parking’s Auto-Pilot Rewards and ClickAndPark.Com programs have made on-airport parking at Bradley an easy — and rewarding — experience.”

Chuck Voase, vice president-east airports for Standard Parking, said, “The Auto-Pilot Rewards program is the new, fully automated Frequent Parker program that allows on-airport parking customers at Bradley a quick and easy way to pay while earning points for free parking. With the use of an automated pass, customers don’t have to pull a ticket when entering one of our parking facilities and they are able to bypass the cashier lanes when leaving.”
For more information regarding various on-Airport parking programs and options at Bradley, visit

The CAA was established in 2011 to develop, improve, and operate Bradley and the state’s five general aviation airports (Danielson, Groton-New London, Hartford-Brainard, Waterbury-Oxford, and Windham). The CAA board consists of 11 members with a broad spectrum of experience in aviation-related and other industries as well as government. The goal of the CAA is to make Connecticut’s airports, specifically Bradley, more attractive to new airlines and bring in new routes, which supports Connecticut’s overall economic development and growth strategy.

WINDSOR LOCKS — The New England Air Museum will hold its next Open Cockpit Day on Sunday, Jan. 19. Visitors will be permitted to climb into the cockpits of up to 12 vintage aircraft, a full-motion flight simulator and two static flight simulators.
The aircraft to be open include the famous P-47 Thunderbolt of World War II, the North American F-100 Super Sabre, a DC-3 airliner, and several helicopters.
As an added feature, the Wings & Wheels Modelers Club will present a plastic scale model show featuring hundreds of model airplanes, military vehicles, figures, ship and cars. There will be ongoing demonstrations by modelers who will be working on and building models throughout the day.
There also will be hands-on activities for younger visitors. A food vendor will be serving sandwiches, snacks, and hot and cold drinks. The event will be held inside the museum’s three large, heated display hangars.
The museum will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $12 for visitors 12 and older, $11 for seniors 65 and older, $6.50 for children 4 to 11. Children under 3 are admitted free.
Open Cockpit Day is also being planned fo Feb. 16 and March 16. The museum is planning special activities for the week of Feb. 17, which is a school vacation week in many towns.
Wings & Wheels, a nonprofit organization affiliated with the International Plastic Modelers Society, is open to anyone with an interest in modeling. The club, serving western New England, has monthly meetings to circulate modeling news, share tips and techniques, and display finished work and work in progress. The club holds an annual contest, ValleyCon, in Chicopee, Mass. Meetings are on the first Wednesday of the month at 7 p.m. at the First Congregational Church in West Springfield, Mass.
The New England Air Museum is the largest aviation museum in New England and is a private, nonprofit educational institution that was organized in 1959. Three hangars and an outdoor display contain more than 80 aircraft with permanent exhibits that include the oldest surviving aircraft in the U.S. — the 1870 Silas M. Brooks Balloon Basket, as well as an S-39 Amphibian plane — the first aircraft built in Connecticut by aviation pioneer Igor Sikorsky. Featured year-round are many historical aircraft and exhibits including a focus on World War II’s Tuskegee Airmen, and a display about Amelia Earhart alongside a Lockheed Model 10 Electra – the same type of plane flown by the female aviator.
The air museum is dedicated to preserving and presenting historically significant aircraft and related artifacts, engaging visitors through high-quality exhibits helping them to understand aviation technology and history and inspiring students through innovative and hands-on educational programs. It is owned and operated by the Connecticut Aeronautical Historical Association and is governed by a volunteer board of directors, with four full-time employees, 18 part-time employees, and more than 175 volunteers.
The museum is at 36 Perimeter Road (off Route 75) on the north end of the Bradley International Airport airfield. For more information: , (860) 623-3305, or Facebook at New England Air Museum.