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Murder, Mystery and Mayhem

Litchfield Community Center's Summerfest

by Joseph Montebello

It is summer and the time for any number of activities and events, from festivals to book signings to barbecues. But the one event that everyone looks forward to is Litchfield Community Center’s Summerfest.

“This year is the tenth anniversary of our summer celebration,” says Berta Andrulis Mette, director of the center. “Cathy Oneglia, a former board member, suggested the idea of having an event that would bring the whole community together. It is the biggest event we do and also the most fun. We generally have 300 people attend.”

As its name suggests, the center is open to all and has something for everyone from lectures, movies, daytrips, activities for children and teens as well as a host of other offerings for any and every age. Summerfest has become the highlight of Litchfield’s summer season – a time when everyone comes to celebrate summer, the center, and the community itself. For the past seven years the event has been called Summerfest and has focused on a particular theme.

“We’ve had A Country Affair, Box Supper Social, County Seat, Celebrating Our Town, Cirque Extraordinaire, Litchfield to London and this year we present ‘Murder on the Orient Express’”, Mette explains. “These themes are always orchestrated down to the most minute detail and we have Ron Leal to thank for that.”

Leal is a former women’s sportswear designer and a Litchfield resident. He serves on the Community Center’s board and has been the impetus behind the past five Summerfests. For him it is the equivalent of planning and staging a seasonal fashion show and he puts his heart and soul into creating the event and it shows. While others would find coming up with a new theme every year a challenge he finds it a pleasure.

“Once a theme pops into my mind, it just goes from there,” Leal explains. “I can look at a picture in a magazine and suddenly a new idea is hatched. Last year was easy because the raffle prize was a trip to London so it all evolved from that. This year the prize is a $10,000 trip anywhere the winner chooses to go.

“We try to elevate the event every year. The financial pie for a town this size is not that big and we are all vying for the same dollars, so I try to challenge my imagination. And Berta and I are always on the same page; we finish each other’s sentences when it comes to putting my ideas into motion.”

The Community Center has done away with the usual silent and live auctions and it has worked well for them.

“We believe that people are tired of being asked to bid on things they really don’t want or need. The idea of theme dinners has now been adopted by several organizations, so we felt we could brand the Community Center with one unique event,” says Leal.

For this year’s celebration he was inspired by Albert Finney as Hercule Poirot in the original Murder on the Orient Express. There will be a monetary prize for the best costume, although coming in one is not a requirement. As with last year’s London event, there will be a series of food stalls.

“We follow the Orient Express from Paris to Venice, so we have moules from Marseilles, French burgers with pommes frites, coq au vin, a leaning tower of pizza, vegetarian lasagna, and a French teashop with a selection of desserts. Something for every palate, plus two bar setups,” Leal explains.

There will also be a band featuring tunes popularized by Edith Piaf. Leal wants the decor be a surprise. We do know that the interior of the Community Center will be transformed into a railway station. But there is bound to be an unexpected twist, for that is what makes Leal’s creations so special. We are all in for a treat.

Murder on the Orient Express takes place at the Litchfield Community Center on Saturday, July 15th from 6:00 to10:00 PM.

Tickets available at the Center and online, just click on the link below.

For additional information please call 860-567-8302 or email