A look back on memorable Monroe moments of 2021

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MONROE, CT — Monroe had its ups and downs during 2021, but this article focuses on a few of the positive moments, as well as some of the greatest accomplishments from our people and sports teams.

Outrageous Pumpkins

Chrissy Scarpati searches the pumpkin patch for pumpkin to carve, as seen on “Outrageous Pumpkins,” Season 2.

Fawn Hollow Elementary School teacher Chrissy Scarpati showed the nation her pumpkin carving skills on Food Network’s TV show, “Outrageous Pumpkins”.

Fans in Monroe followed our local art teacher as she advanced for a couple of rounds before being eliminated in her quest to win the $25,000 prize.

Through her experience with the show, Scarpati met celebrity pumpkin carver Deane Arnold and invited him to her school to give the children lessons.

Unbeatable!

Masuk High School softball pitcher Kat Gallant not only shut down St. Joseph of Trumbull, she also provided all of the offense as the top-seeded Panthers blanked the second-seeded Cadets 2-0 in the Class L state championship softball game, at DeLuca Field in Stratford.

Gallant cracked a two-run home run to left in the bottom of the fourth inning in support of herself. She struck out a dozen Cadets and finished off this fine, MVP performance, by inducing a grounder to second base.

“She did it all — on the mound and at bat,” Masuk Coach Leigh Barone said.

While Gallant’s season was filled with heroics, the Panthers had a great team overall, with timely hitting and great defense by her teammates.

Before Gallant’s homer in the championship game, Masuk freshman Natalie Lieto singled with two outs to extend the fourth inning, breaking up a no-hitter.

Masuk right fielder Emma West had a defensive gem, making a diving catch in the fourth.

Make-A-Wish Volunteer of the Year

Mark Haversat, of Monroe, center, watches the Make-A-Wish award ceremony on a screen at the Connecticut chapter’s headquarters. He is flanked by Nancy Diehl, IT operations and resource manager, left, and President and CEO Pam Keough.

Make-A-Wish Connecticut’s new Wishing Place greets its young visitors, who have critical illnesses, with butterflies and stars in the building’s vestibule, on their way to the waiting room, where they hear the soothing sound of the Wishing Fountain.

The new 15,000-square-foot facility at 56 Commerce Drive in Trumbull offers a magical place, inspiring children’s imaginations and creativity as they embark on their wish journey. It was designed by Mark Haversat, of Monroe, and his company Robbins Tesar Inc. (RTI).

The Make-A-Wish Foundation of America honored Haversat with the 2021 Suzie Allen Volunteer of the Year Award.

“Obviously, it’s very humbling,” he said. “I don’t look to be the center of attention and I don’t do this for any other reason, but to bring joy to the kids and their families. But it’s very rewarding.”

Haversat’s first involvement with Make-A-Wish was when he and his wife, Donna, received a wish for their son, Tyler, who was diagnosed with leukemia in 1992 at age four.

The wish was a trip to Disney World. Tyler since recovered and is doing well and the Haversat family continues to pay it forward.

‘Belief has power’

Masuk quarterback Dylan Jackson looks for an open receiver during the Panthers’ thrilling comeback win over New Fairfield.

Masuk Panthers Football Coach Steve Christy’s team had a never say die attitude with several come-from-behind victories in 2021. But none was bigger than when the team dug itself out of a 28-0 hole against New Fairfield in a home game in October.

Quarterback Dylan Jackson connected with Nick Saccu on a 35-yard touchdown pass with 23 seconds remaining. Rather than kick the extra point to tie the score, the Panthers went for two. Jake Dellapiano had the two-point conversion for the late lead and Masuk went on to win 29-28.

Christy said the team practiced a new two-point conversion play during the week with intentions of going to it if the opportunity presented itself. The Panthers’ gamble and practice paid off.

The final drive was as improbable as the comeback. Backed against the shadows of their own end zone, the Panthers drove 96 yards with less than two minutes remaining to complete the comeback. They converted a pair of fourth-down conversions on the final drive, including a fourth and 20 from their own four, Christy said. Jackson hooked up with Ryan Saccu on that first fourth down conversion.

“It was amazing. They didn’t give up — they just believed. Belief has power,” Christy said.

Monroe gets a Panera Café

Many town residents expressed enthusiasm on social media over a proposal for a new, next generation Panera Bread Café to be built at 205 Monroe Turnpike. But the COVID-19 pandemic stalled plans for the Monroe location, before rekindled efforts ensured it will become a reality.

A modification to the approved plan will reduce the building from 4,950 to 3,482 square feet. The Planning and Zoning Commission gave a green light to the changes and now construction can begin.

The restaurant will have two dual order lanes, which merge to one lane behind the building. Panera is redesigning all of its restaurants to be standalone facilities. Monroe’s location will be the second Panera Café to open in the nation. The first was in St. Louis, Mo.

Light Up Monroe winners

Snowy the Snowman announced the winners of the second annual Light Up Monroe Contest, a fundraiser for The Wolfe’s Den Playground project at Wolfe Park.

The “2021 Monroe Holiday Spectacular” aired on YouTube on Dec. 23. The winners were:

The Clark Griswold Award: 10 Stonewall Lane

Santa’s Favorite: 36 Admiral Drive

Best Inflatables: 5 Sherman Circle

Classic Christmas: 133 Old Castle Drive

Frosty’s (Snowy’s) Favorite: 75 Red Barn Road

Best New Entry: 26 Forest Drive

Biggest Fundraiser: The Gagnon Family

People’s Choice Award: 92 Purdy Hill Road

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