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What's there to do in Norwich? Plenty, according to coalition

By Claire Bessette

Publication: The Day

Published April 18. 2014 4:00AM   Updated April 19. 2014 12:21AM

Norwich - A dozen local museums, civic groups and city agencies held an open house Thursday at the Slater Memorial Museum Atrium designed to offer answers for hotel clerks and restaurant staffs when a customer asks, "What is there to do around here?"

A coalition called Norwich Heritage Groups sponsored Thursday's open house, where museums and groups offered tables with brochures, schedules of events, local history books and information packets to participants. The groups invited restaurant owners, hotel managers and travel agents and posted the event on various Facebook pages.

Jason Vincent, vice president of the Norwich Community Development Corp., handed out information about Norwich's participation in The Last Green Valley National Heritage Corridor.

"They'll be 66 events in Norwich for Walktober this year," Vincent told Norwich resident France Stephanos of the popular fall series of walks and events in the region. "There were 110 events in total last year, and we're having 66 just in Norwich alone. These are all local people telling the community what's going on."

Stephanos, a five-year Norwich resident and a member of the Sunrise Rotary Club, learned of the open house on NCDC's Facebook page. She said there is so much history and so many attractions in the local area that she doesn't understand why Norwich is so "sleepy."

Whenever she has visitors, she urges them to drive to City Hall and see the historic building and the surrounding 19th century downtown architecture. A slide show running during the open house featured a photo from Main Street looking up lower Broadway to City Hall.

"It's so beautiful," Stephanos said. "It's nice that they kept all that architecture."

City Manager Alan Bergren said he plans to repeat the walking tour of City Hall he led during last year's Walktober event.

Across the Atrium, Kevin Harkins, president of the Friends of the Norwich Bells, encouraged participants to ring one of the table-top bells on display. The group promotes preservation and ringing of the city's many historic church, mill tower and firehouse bells.

Harkins also recently launched a low-powered radio broadcast on 1700 AM that gives continuous event announcements in Norwich. The tiny station carries about 1 to 2 miles from the Norwich Free Academy area, he said.

Called "Heritage Information Radio," the station serves "Norwichtown, Yantic Falls and Chelsea Parade," according to the flier Harkins handed out.

Slater Museum, the Leffingwell House Museum, the Norwich Historical Society, Otis Library and city Historian Dale Plummer also had booths at the open house.

"This is to promote Norwich and to let the public know all the great things going on here," said Historical Society Project Coordinator Regan Miner.

c.bessette@theday.com

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