Renee Fournier has lived and worked in New London, Connecticut for nearly two decades. She fell in love with the city shortly after graduation when she landed her first job out of college at the Garde Arts Center. She has served on various non-profit tourism boards and committees. Currently the board president of New London Main Street, she was named Volunteer of the Year by the organization in 2007, and was instrumental in creating the popular waterfront children's festival: "Fish Tales, Tugs and Sails." Her career in the city has included positions as head of communications at Mitchell College and The Williams School. When not working or helping her neighborhood, this adopted daughter of New London can be found kayaking the Thames River, walking the boardwalk at Ocean Beach or sipping cocktails with friends at Hot Rod Café.
Dear New London,
Thank you for welcoming me with open arms. With big dreams and bold ambitions of a young twenty-something, I arrived here 19 years ago to take on my first job after graduating from the University of Connecticut.
Raised in the suburbs of central Connecticut, this quaint, picturesque waterfront community was unfamiliar to me. You seemed so off-the-beaten path, yet you were right along the I-95 corridor. I immediately fell in love with your historic architecture, including the grand Union Station built by the famed architect Henry Hobson Richardson.
I have absolutely loved living and working by the shore, and equally appealing to me has been your thriving arts and music scene. And I had the coolest job in the world; marketing for the prestigious Garde Arts Center, New London's historic 1,500-seat movie palace, which was built in 1926. I remember my first day on the job like it was yesterday. "The Wizard of Oz" was playing as a matinee, and our house manager asked if I wanted popcorn. Yup, it was the coolest job!
On warm afternoons, we would take short walks down State Street to City Pier and have lunch while enjoying the cool breezes off the Thames River. Special were the times when New London's own majestic Barque Eagle, the flagship of the U.S. Coast Guard, would be docked for all to enjoy.
As I loved you so much, I purchased my first home here with you. While just a few minutes from your beaches, I have enjoyed my routine morning walks along Pequot Avenue, looking out to the mouth of the Thames River and Long Island Sound. And I consider myself lucky every time I pass, not one, but two lighthouses (New London Harbor Light and Ledge Light). On a crisp and clear day, I can even see Fisher's Island, New York.
And if time allows, I walk your expansive Ocean Beach Park, which is like something out of a postcard - waterslide, carousel, mini-golf, and all.
As routine as my walks occur, this never gets dull to me.
Thank you also for offering me a rich and fulfilling social life - from my 20's to my 30's, and now my 40's - you have never been lacking with things to do. I've enjoyed (and even helped to produce) some of your biggest festivals and concerts on Waterfront Park. I've enjoyed seeing countless live bands performing in your many downtown clubs and venues, and have loved that you have an art gallery on nearly every block.
For a small city you offer a huge variety of fabulous restaurants and cafes, serving everything from Indian to Japanese to Mediterranean Tapas to gourmet brick oven pizza. You introduced me to the famous "Huey's Love Salad." And while there's no more Huey's restaurant, we do have Huey's daughter now serving this delicious creation in her bustling cafe, Muddy Waters. Gracias Muddy Waters--the now infamous news hub of downtown New London--for the many years you've been serving my favorite coffee.
And now as I write this, the announcement has just been posted on Facebook that Captain Scott's Lobster Dock will soon open for another season. I feel the grin on my face growing from ear to ear as each year this has become a destination for my family and friends near and far to enjoy the fresh scallops, clams, lobster bisque and buttered lobster roll. I've actually come to know the times when there is least likely to be a line.
Thank you, New London, for giving me such a rich history to share - the stories of Eugene O'Neill, Benedict Arnold, Nathan Hale and the Amistad. You are home to the Shaw Mansion, Eugene O'Neill homestead, Fort Trumbull State Park, Joshua Hempstead houses, and U.S. Custom House Maritime Museum. And soon you will make history again with the addition of our nation's first and only National Coast Guard Museum. I can't wait! I'm sure my friends and family will add a new museum visit with their signature lunch at Captain Scott's.
You are a destination for many and I am proud to call you my home. Keep me in mind when you need a tour guide.