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Christine Baranski

Celebrating the Housatonic

by Joseph Montebello

While Connecticut has many rivers, none is as impressive as the Housatonic. For 27 years the Housatonic Valley Association has worked for its conservation and celebrated its importance with its annual auction for the environment.

“The Housatonic River is 150 miles long and extends from Pittsfield, Massachusetts, through western Connecticut to Stratford,” explained Lynn Werner, HVA executive director. “There are hundreds of rivers and tributaries and it covers about 2,000 square miles, 1.2 million acres, 82 towns and three states.”

Fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg was the founder of the annual auction, scheduled this year for Sunday, December 3rd, 1 to 4 PM at Washington Primary School. It draws people from every part of the Northwest Corner, including many celebrities who lend their names to support the cause. One of the most visible and dedicated is Tony and Emmy Award-winning actress Christine Baranski, who has chaired the event for the past 10 years.

“Diane asked me to take over when she decided to step down,” said Baranski. “I am on the board and invariably miss meetings because I am working. But I am proud to lend my name to such an amazing event—for such an amazing cause. We are fortunate to have so many well-known people who are part of the event committee and want to help in any way they can. And lending their names is a great draw.”

This year’s list includes many who have been involved previously and who come back every year: Peter Gallagher, Graydon and Anna Carter, Stephen Sondheim, Anderson Cooper, Mia Farrow, Meryl Streep and Margo Martindale, to name but a few.

Werner couldn’t be happier with the success of the event. Last year it raised more than $175,000, about a tenth of the organization’s yearly budget.

“It’s a wonderful afternoon,” she said, “and having so many well-known people involved encourages others to become interested and help our cause. We have so many incredible water ways in the Housatonic Valley and it’s a constant battle to keep them all safe and running.”

The aim of the HVA is to support responsible growth in the area while balancing human expansion with measured efforts of preservation. In partnership with 23 land trusts and conservation organizations across the Housatonic’s 83 watershed communities, the HVA has been immensely successful in its efforts, becoming one of only 10 land trusts in Connecticut to be accredited by the Land Trust Accreditation Commission.

Baranski is the ultimate cheerleader and cannot say enough about the importance of protecting natural resources.

“People’s awareness has grown,” she explained, “but we cannot take anything for granted. We can no longer rely on elected officials to do what has to be done. As citizens, we must roll up our sleeves and be proactive. If we want to save our environment and our precious waterways for future generations, we need to support an organization like HVA.”

The auction is a perfect way to get involved, meet new people and learn more about what can be done to help.

The event, consisting of a silent and live auction, welcomes more than 200 guests annually. Over the years, auction-goers have bid generously on items such as books, local arts and crafts, tickets to concerts and sports events, and week-long vacations in the Caribbean, among other covetable items.

“There is something for everyone,” Baranski said. “Exotic trips, fashion items, cooking classes, garden design. Last year someone won a load of gravel. And in addition to the main event there is a pre-auction brunch at designer Linda Allard’s incredible home.”

“It’s exciting to have so many well-known names involved in the event,” Baranski said. “But this not a fussy event. It’s a laid back, say hello, have fun kind of afternoon. We all live in this beautiful place together. People come here because of what we can offer. The quality of life in the Litchfield Hills is very special—because it’s clean and fresh and reminiscent of the English countryside. And we all need to work to keep it that way.”

For more information and to purchase tickets visit the link below.